ONLY GOD FORGIVES is a combination
of European art film, Asian crime movie, and 1980s Michael Mann movies and you begin to scratch the surface of what Nicolas
Winding Refn has created with his latest movie which is a different beast from his previous movie DRIVE (which also starred
Ryan Gosling). In ONLY GOD FORGIVES, Ryan Gosling is Julian, an American
fugitive from justice (for killing his father), who runs a Thai boxing club that acts as a front for his drug business. When Julian’s brother, Billy, is killed by the father of the prostitute that
Billy savagely murdered, his mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives to collect the body and she wants revenge. Crystal
is the head of a vast criminal organization and she is a ruthless woman who doesn’t realize she has set her and Julian
on the path to go against Chang (Vithaya Pansringram)- a mysterious policeman who is like an angel of vengeance/ devil. Chang has decided to clean up Bangkok
of all of the underground brothels and fight clubs using his own methods of justice.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES is an unconventional
crime thriller that is a visual and audio mood piece. Nicolas Winding Refn
decided to tell the story through that way due to some dialogue to being very useful like one the actors pronouncing Angel
of Vengeance as Angel of Wengeance which began Refn’s approach to subtracting the dialogue from the movie during the
production and editing stage. The ending is something that Asian audiences may
appreciate more than Western audiences expecting a more conventional ending. People
expecting another film like DRIVE might come away disappointed since Nicolas Winding Refn decides to make each of his movies
different from each other. He fits the visuals and story to each movie he is
telling. DRIVE is different from BRONSAN as VAHALLA RISING is definitely different
from those two films and ONLY GOD FORGIVES. In this film, Ryan Gosling is another
character who speaks with few words as he did with his performance as Driver in DRIVE.
Julian is a son with anger issues boiling underneath and he can’t even have a regular relationship as witnessed
by his relationship with a beautiful Thai prostitute (Mai) who masturbates on a bed in front of him as he is tied down in
a chair. The moment where their relationship seems normal is when Julian takes
Mai to dinner with his mother and later when they visit a karaoke club where Chang is singing.
Maybe Julian and his brother Billy were damaged by the way their mother raised them and they ended up not being able
to have normal relationships ever since Crystal is one ruthless witch bitch.
That brings me to the ending which may leave some disappointed since it isn't the traditional Western ending as it goes for
something bleaker as Julian is waiting for the moment he sees in his head.
Feature audio commentary with Writer/ Director
Nicolas Winding Refn and Damon Wise- Refn discusses the movie’s themes and production with Damon Wise in this very engaging
audio commentary track which plays off like a 90 minute interview.
Two Director interviews as Refn talks about
Thailand with Mark Dinning and discusses genre films with
Behind the Scenes featurettes: THE DRUG TRADE, STAGING THE BROTHEL SCENE, FRAMING THE GUN FIGHT, “THE SWORD YOU EXECUTE PEOPLE WITH”,
SLICING THE ARM, PREPPING FOR THE SHOOTOUT, THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY, A FACE FOR RADIO, ON THE SETS WITH REFN, THE TONGUE,
KENDO TECHNIQUES, “VIOLENCE IS LIKE SEX”- 12 behind-the-scenes
featurettes which show various aspects of the pre-production and production process which are very interesting to watch as
you see how Refn interacts with people and people love to work with him. The
23 ½ minutes of featurettes could have been crafted into one fantastic making-of documentary, but they are still some of the
best behind-the-scenes moments I have seen on DVD as you see him talk to cast and crew including Ryan Gosling joke that Refn
never said he had a face for cinema and Refn responds that Gosling has the face for radio and the internet. Also you see Refn pick out the right sword for the character of Chang and he also plays with one
of the swords to hit a water bottle off a pole in addition to Vithaya Pansringram talking about Kendo.
THE MUSIC OF ONLY GOD FORIVES WITH CLIFF
MARTINEZ- the film’s composer discusses his musical influences, how he got involved in making movie scores, how he created
the score, and how it is to work with Nicola Winding Refn.
FINAL ANALYSIS: ONLY GOD FORGIVES is an interesting visual and audio mood piece from Refn, but people expecting another
DRIVE may come away disappointed. The extras are great and make you wish for
more of them.
This review is (c)10-25-2013 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments
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