It's just one of those films...
There’s a lot to love in Only God Forgives – or hate, depending on where exactly on the love/hate Nicholas Winding Refn spectrum your sympathies lie. This film is no Drive, by any stretch of the imagination and will not endear the Gosling/Winding Refn duo to any fans of that film. Still, the things that get some moviegoers to demand their money back are the exact same things that make others love this movie.
The dragging pace is a key offender. Gosling isn’t typically a blockbuster actor, nor does Reft go for that kind of thing. Still, upon hearing the abbreviated plot of OGF – Billy, a boxing club owner/drug dealer is prompted by his blood-thirsty mother to avenge the death of his rotten brother and kill almost indiscriminately in the process – it sounds fast and snappy, like a shootemup, but more artsy. Fast is exactly what this movie isn’t. But while some might not be able to sit still by the end of the first 45 minutes, the change of pace (get it?) from the usual summer fare is to be appreciated.
This one will definitely divide audiences.
Speaking of artsy, for a glorified revenge tale this film gets a lot of flack for trying too hard with the visuals, not creating a believable enough atmosphere and so on. And to be sure – with so little dialogue, Refn had to rely heavily on the visuals. And while, yes, the scene-setting does go a bit overboard at times – really, there’s only so much footage of walls and beaded curtains one can see before tuning out – for the most part, the cinematography succeeds in convincing us that we’re really watching spmething more than extended footage of people killing each other.
But tearing it apart is almost half the fun.
Oh, but there’s one last thing, of course – the acting. Gosling and Vithaya Pansringarm both work as the film’s protagonist and antagonist respectively, but it’s Kristin Scott Thomas, who steals every scene she’s in. As Billy’s twisted mother, she brings out complicated emotions. You don’t love her, certainly, but you can’t bring yourself to hate her either. She’s just there to be the movie’s heart. And it’s mouth. And its calculating, manipulative mind, to be honest. Worth the watch, even if it is just to see Scott Thomas in action.
Kristin Scott Thomas, we salute you!