Only God Forgives (2013) Review

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Plot: Julian, a drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, sees his life get even more complicated when his mother compels him to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother’s recent death.

Another incredibly tough film to review, as audiences were polarized by it. They either loved it or hated it with a vengeance, and I can see both sides on this one. “Only God Forgives” is not a movie for everyone, by that meaning it is not in the sense a “crowdpleaser”-type movie. It’s a hard movie to get into properly, but if you’re willing to give it a chance you might find something you like about the movie. Though the chances are 50/50 to that logic, apparently.

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Let us start with the performances. Ryan Gosling, playing the main lead Julian, was pretty good in the role. I’m a big fan of his, he’s great at playing silent, dark, and brooding characters and while this wasn’t his best performance he was still quite watchable. However, Kristen Scott Thomas’s performance as Crystal, the mother of Julian and Billy, stole the show. She gave what I think was one of her best performances yet. Tom Burke was also good as Billy, the brother whom Julian must avenge.

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Now to the part that’s really hard to write about for me: the screenplay. The story was written by the film’s director, Nicholas Winding Refn, and was quite good in theory. But what mars this film from being great is the way it was told; the film was really hard to get into at first, and was quite slow. However picking up speed somewhere near the middle. It was a very good revenge plot, well-written but when put on film it sort of went everywhere and nowhere. Some parts were hard to follow, as well.

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The direction and performances are what save this movie. The direction, by Winding Refn, was very highly stylized but extremely well done. The cinematography was excellent, with the bright lights and backdrop of Bangkok realized spectacularly. Not to mention the amazing dense, melodic score in the background done perfectly by Cliff Martinez. 

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In conclusion, “Only God Forgives” is a polarizing movie; it’s technically well made but suffers from some faults that prevent it from becoming the masterpiece it could’ve easily been. The performances and story were very good, but the stylized direction and brilliant score were without a doubt the best things about this movie. I cannot fully give this a recommendation as much as I would love to, while I very much liked this movie I can easily see the perspective of someone who wouldn’t, it is not an easy film to fully get into. But I can say at least give it a small chance, you might find something you like about it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Thanks for Reading!

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