In 2011, "Drive"--the single handed best film I have ever seen--was released to theaters. Director Nicolas Winding Refn opened my eyes to a powerfully beautiful and subtle way of film and created an atmosphere that I still keep close to two years later. When I saw that "Only God Forgives" was being released as Refn's follow-up to my favorite film of all time, my excitement meter spun out of control. After viewing this film I can say that 98 percent of Earth's population will despise it in its entirety, although I stand on a fine line between thinking it's garbage and thinking that it's art. You have every right to be confused.
"Only God Forgives" has a somewhat limited plot staring Ryan Gosling as a tight-lipped thug named Julian, Kristin Scott Thomas as his mother, and Vithaya Pansringarm as a brutal cop. Our story takes place in Bangkok and follows Julian, a criminal who has just received news that his brother has been murdered by an unknown man. After his mother Crystal flies to Thailand to address the situation, she begins to twist her remaining son's mind in hopes of leading him to track down the killer. All the while a cop, only known as Chang, tracks Julian and his mother's every move.
That's about it. Now I'm all for a simple plot, and this one could have worked, but with terrible pacing and writing, the film becomes just a director's jumbled thoughts thrown onto a canvas that only he could understand at first glance. Story aside, this film is genuinely breathtaking to look at and if this is not nominated for a best cinematography Oscar I will be surprised. The streets of Bangkok light up with neon colors, and the film breathes of atmosphere, much like 2011's Drive. The acting is also phenomenal, although while watching I counted under thirty words to come out of Ryan Gosling's mouth, and for a man that is in nearly every scene--well, that's not a lot of talking. If you like fast paced movies with a vivid plot that doesn't take too much speculation to understand what is going on, "Only God Forgives" is not for you. With this said, I dug deep through my viewing and tried to depict the hidden messages throughout this bizarre neo-noire film and came out--like I referenced above-- 'on the fence.'