Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie Review: Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives

I like this quote from David Edelstein on Only God Forgives. "I thought it was just about the worst f--king thing I’ve ever seen."

This quote perfectly captures the hyperbole surrounding Nicholas Winding Refn's and Ryan Gosling's newest crime thriller. Having seen Drive and Refn's Valhalla Rising, I can see why some people are acting this way.

I wasn't able to reach a theater to see this movie. The nearest showing was a forty minute commute. My hype to see this movie is high, but not that high. Luckily it appears the distributor has taken this into account and Only God Forgives is available digitally the same day as theaters. My gas tank thanks them. So I went ahead and ordered the high definition rental and enjoyed the comfort of my living room and a rewind/pause function.

Nicholas Winding Refn is entering a particular film niche with his body of work. He is certainly the most popular art-house director able to make the most buzz about what he is working on. It helps that he can attract stars like Ryan Gosling, Tom Hardy, and Mads Mikkelson in lead roles. Here is a comparison to explain what Only God Forgives actually is. It is more like a spritual sequel to Valhalla Rising than it is to Drive. If you like what Valhalla Rising has to offer, you'll like Only God Forgives. If you've never seen Valhalla Rising and only seen Drive, prepare yourselves. It's artsy fartsy.

Objectively Only God Forgives has a number of strengths. The cinematography is incredible. Beautiful shots of Bangkok dripping with red and blue lights. Scenes ooze atmosphere, even when the camera stands still. One of the most visually thrilling movies this year without a doubt.The score is nothing to sneeze at either! Synthesized beats and Taiwanese karaoke set a particular and deliberate mood. Each deliberate shot is enhanced with a deliberate sound, and for better or worse, the aim is achieved.

Major performances come from the leads in this order, Vithaya Pansringarm, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Ryan Gosling. Pansringarm's Chang is enthralling. With his looks and actions he tells an entire story to the audience and captures their attention every time he enters a shot. Kristen Scott Thomas is one hell of a slippery snake of woman as Crystal. She is wonderfully despicable and conniving when she turns events into her favor. Ryan Gosling's character Julian may be last, but not least. The conflicted and psychopathic Julian shines in the second half, where the audience is allowed to see more of him

Aside from the production qualities, the acting and story are subjective to each person. Only God Forgives does not spoon feed the audience story, it most be inferred and found through symbolism. In this aspect, the act of getting it and not getting it is made quite stark. The average moviegoer can get Drive, it's straightforward, simple, and has a number of easy to pickup mainstream qualities. Only God Forgives is not going for that, it is why I used Valhalla Rising as an example. Both require an input from the audience to fill in meaning and relate to what is happening. Also they are both hyper violent.

Squeemish much? May want to pass on this movie. I was impressed on the level of violence used in this film. Certain parts made me have to look away. Please note, this is not the type of torture violence that was in vogue a few years back, although it is just as brutal.

As a lover of artsy fartsy movies like these, I enjoyed Only God Forgives greatly. It clicked, I got it, I am most likely the target audience for the movie. I can see how people who like movies like this would be bored. The movie is slow if nothing clicks. All the staring can be off-putting. The inter cut dream-like sequences can cause confusion. What it boils down to is Only God Forgives is surreal.

For lovers for this type of movie, but don't get it; it's disappointing. For people who think these types of movie are pretentious; it's a snorefest. Want to talk about bad movies, I have a collection full of them. Only God Forgives won't be joining that pile. It doesn't top Drive, but it was a ticket well purchased.