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.
Bangkok. Ten years ago Julian (Ryan Gosling) killed a man and went on the run. Now he manages a Thai boxing club as a front for a drugs operation. Respected in the criminal underworld, deep inside, he feels empty. When Julian's brother murders an underage prostitute, the Police call on retired cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) - the Angel of Vengeance. Chang allows the father to kill his daughter's murderer, then "restores order" by chopping off the man's right hand. Julian's mother Crystal (Dame Kristin Scott Thomas) - the head of a powerful criminal organization - arrives in Bangkok to collect her son's body. She dispatches Julian to find his killers and "raise Hell".
After the fight of the opening scene, the arm of the winner is raised by the referee and the defeated fighter is picked up by his helpers in blue. When the camera cuts to the other side of the ring, this is shown again. See more »
If you've seen Drive, then you should know that this movie is nothing like it, except perhaps in the fact that they are both beautifully shot. Drive had a pretty brisk pace, good dialogue, a plot that went somewhere, and a likable character.
Only God Forgives had none of that. This is a movie which moves along at a snail's pace, and even at a runtime of 90 minutes, it feels like many hours go by before even a single thing happens. Even the characters move and turn slowly.
The plot, such as it is, you would probably find worth watching, but Nicolas Winding Refn peppers it with pseudo-dream sequences and many pointless scenes that drag on for ever, so that the plot becomes hard to stay interested in.
Now, some things you might care about.
The acting. Ryan Gosling, of whom I was a fan in his earlier days, plays the same character from Drive, except that here he is indeed even more emotionless. He speaks about 5 lines during the whole movie, and has fewer different facial expressions. Kristin Scott Thomas is very good, although she feels underused. She is definitely the strong point of this movie. Vithaya Pansringarm, who plays a prominent role in the movie, is as expressionless as Gosling, although he is somewhat better, in my opinion.
Action scenes do exist, and they do resemble those from Drive, in that they are very matter-of-factly and visceral. Here, Winding Refn has really indulged in a lot of gratuitous gore, although overall, I found the action scenes quite entertaining. One particular one showcases Byron Gibson's acting talents, and it is particularly (and hilariously) cringe-worthy.
All the characters in this movie are unlikable. It is extremely difficult to get yourself to care for any of them, including Gosling's, who is arguably the protagonist here.
Aside from Scott Thomas' acting, the only other redeeming quality of this film is the excellent way in which most scenes are set up and shot. The sets, the camera movement, the placement of the actors, all of these make up for some truly gorgeous shots.
Overall, sad as I am to say it, I cannot recommend seeing Only God Forgives.
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