Only God Forgives

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Only God Forgives
Only God Forgives poster.jpg
Teaser poster
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Produced by Lene Børglum
Written by Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring
Music by Cliff Martinez
Cinematography Larry Smith
Edited by Matthew Newman
Production
company
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 22 May 2013 (2013-05-22) (Cannes)
  • 30 May 2013 (2013-05-30) (Denmark)
  • 31 May 2013 (2013-05-31) (Sweden)
  • 19 July 2013 (2013-07-19) (United States)
Running time 90 minutes[3]
Country
  • Denmark
  • France[4]
Language English
Thai
Budget $4.8 million[5]
Box office $10,337,387[6]

Only God Forgives is a 2013 Danish-French neo-noir art house crime thriller film written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vithaya Pansringarm.[4][7] The film was shot on location in Bangkok, Thailand,[8] and, as with Drive,[9] is dedicated to Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky.[10] It competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[11]

Plot[edit]

Julian (Ryan Gosling) is an American expatriate who runs a muay thai club in Bangkok, Thailand, that is a front for a drug smuggling operation. His older brother Billy rapes and kills an under-age prostitute and is caught by the Thai police. Lieutenant Chang allows the girl's father, Choi Yan Lee, to beat Billy, but Choi goes too far and ends up killing him. However, Chang does not care about Billy's death; instead, Chang cuts off the father's forearm for allowing his daughter to be a prostitute.

Julian also has his sexual hang-ups preferring to be tied up while he watches his favorite prostitute, Mai, touch herself, all filmed as if in a ballet.

Julian and his crew go to Choi's kiosk to confront him about his part in Billy's murder but spares his life after hearing the story. Julian's mother, Crystal, arrives in Bangkok to identify Billy's corpse. Crystal demands Julian find and kill the men who killed Billy, but he refuses—believing that Choi had some justification for seeking retribution for the killing of his daughter—infuriating her. Julian has several visions of meeting Chang in a dark room, Chang cutting Julian's hands off.

Julian brings Mai to meet Crystal, posing as his girlfriend. Crystal sees through the ruse and hurls insults at Mai and demeans Julian, pronouncing him sexually inferior to his dead brother. Julian humbly accepts all of Crystal's abuse, but afterward turns on Mai, viciously humiliating her, then regretting it.

One of the fighters at Julian's boxing club assassinates Choi at the behest of Gordon, a member of Julian's crew, at Crystal's request. Later, the police investigating Choi's murder arrive at Julian's club, but Chang concludes that Julian is not Choi's killer. Julian recognizes Chang from his visions and follows him from the boxing club, but Chang seems to disappear into thin air.

After learning that Chang was involved in Billy's death, Crystal meets with an associate, Byron, to arrange Chang's assassination. Three gunmen on motorbike are sent to kill Chang at a restaurant with machine guns, and two of Chang's men are killed in the shoot-out. Chang kills two of the gunmen and follows the third on foot, beating him with a frying pan. He leads him to his boss Li Po who is feeding his young crippled son. Chang then kills the third gunman, but spares Li Po after seeing him show affection for his son. Li Po points Chang to Byron, who ordered the hit. Chang finds Byron in a club and tortures him to get answers. Byron reveals the reasoning behind the hit, but refuses to give a name. Chang continues to torture Byron, cutting out his eyes and inserting a spike into his ear.

Julian confronts Chang and challenges him to a fight and they fight on the bare concrete floor of Julian's boxing venue. Chang, an experienced boxer, easily and thoroughly beats Julian, who lands not a single hit in the entire match. Afterwards, Crystal tells Julian that Chang has figured out she ordered the hit on him. Fearfully, she pleads with Julian to kill Chang to protect her, the same way she asked Julian to kill his own father for her. She promises that after Julian kills Chang, they will go back home and she will be a true mother to him and take care of him. Julian agrees.

Julian shoots the guard outside Chang's home, and his associate Charlie Ling enter Chang's house, intent on ambushing him when he returns. Charlie informs Julian that he was instructed to execute Chang's entire family. Charlie murders the nanny of Chang's daughter as she enters the home, but, in an act of redemption, Julian shoots Charlie before he can kill Chang's young daughter.

Chang and a police officer visit Crystal. She blames everything on Julian. Chang ends up cutting her throat.

Julian returns to the hotel and finds his mother's corpse. In silence, he approaches her body and cuts open her abdomen. Julian slowly places his hand inside of the wound. After leaving and having several surreal visions, Julian is shown standing in a field with Chang, who appears to cut off both of Julian's hands with his sword. The final scene returns to Chang singing at a karaoke bar with an audience of attentive police officers, watching him in silence.

Cast[edit]

  • Ryan Gosling as Julian, an American who lives in Bangkok and "is a respected figure in the criminal underworld" according to a production synopsis.[12] Gosling was in negotiations to star in the film in June 2011 after Luke Evans dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.[13] Gosling had undertaken Muay Thai training in preparation for the role by that September,[14] which included 2–3 hour daily sessions.[15] Refn also participated in the training.[15] Gosling and Refn had recently worked together on the neo-noir crime drama Drive (2011). Julian only speaks 17 lines throughout the film.[16] "Gosling's character sticking his hands into her [mother] corpse's dead womb... a machination that came from Gosling himself."[17]
  • Kristin Scott Thomas as Crystal, Julian's mother, who is described as "a merciless and terrifying mafia godmother" combining elements of Lady Macbeth and Donatella Versace.[12][18] Scott Thomas was cast by May 2011.[19]
  • Vithaya Pansringarm as Lt. Chang/"The Angel of Vengeance", a man that believes himself to be God "[i]n the sense that God in the Old Testament is saying I can be cruel, you have to fear me as I can be kind, you have to love me."[20] Pansringarm did his own Thai boxing and singing for his role. "The character of One Eye went into Driver then went into the Thai police lieutenant. They're the same character played by three different actors [...] a mythological creature that has a mysterious past but cannot relate to reality because he's heightened and he's pure fetish."[21]
  • Gordon Brown as Gordon, Julian and Billy's lieutenant. Brown earlier played a walk-on role in Refn's Bronson and a supporting part in Valhalla Rising.
  • Rhatha Phongam (Yaya-Ying)[22] as Mai, a prostitute associated with Julian
  • Tom Burke[2] as Billy, Julian's older brother
  • Byron Gibson as Byron
  • Danai Thiengdham as Li Po
  • Sahajak Boonthanakit as Pol Col. Kim
  • Nophand Boonyai as Charlie
  • Teerawat Mulvilai as Ko Sam
  • Kovit Wattanakul as Choi Yan Lee
  • Wittchuta Watjanarat as Ma Fong

Production[edit]

Refn has said that "[f]rom the beginning, [he] had the idea of a thriller produced as a western, all in the Far East, and with a modern cowboy hero."[5] He originally planned to direct Only God Forgives directly after Valhalla Rising (2009), but he accepted Gosling's request to direct Drive instead.[23] Gosling has described the script of Only God Forgives as "the strangest thing I've ever read and it's only going to get stranger."[14] Like Drive, Only God Forgives was largely shot chronologically and scenes were often edited the day they were shot.[5]

Footage was screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.[24] Refn drew a connection between Only God Forgives and Drive, saying that "[Only God Forgives] is very much a continuation of that language"—"[i]t's based on real emotions, but set in a heightened reality. It's a fairy tale."[23]

Reception[edit]

The film received a very divided response at its Cannes press screening; it was booed by many of the audience of journalists and critics while also receiving a standing ovation.[18][25] It received a primarily negative response from mainstream critics: review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 40% based on reviews from 150 critics, with a weighted average of 5.1/10 and the site's consensus states: "Director Refn remains as visually stylish as ever, but Only God Forgives fails to add enough narrative smarts or relatable characters to ground its beautifully filmed depravity."[26] Metacritic assigns the film a weighted average rating of 37 out of 100 based on the reviews of thirty-nine professional critics.[27]

Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph reflected concerns over the film in a three out of five star review. "The film's characters are non-people; the things they say to each other are non-conversations, the events they enact are non-drama," he wrote. But he praised Refn for following up his commercially successful film Drive with "...this abstruse, neon-dunked nightmare that spits in the face of coherence and flicks at the earlobes of good taste".[28]

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it five out of five stars, calling it gripping and praising the "pure formal brilliance" of every scene and frame, though he notes that it will "have people running for the exits, and running for the hills" with its extreme violence.[29] In an alternative review published in The Guardian, John Patterson was highly critical of the film, citing its lack of originality and the low degree of focus on plot: "Somewhere in here is a story that Refn can hardly be bothered to tell... I feel the ghosts of other movies—his influences, his inspirations—crowding in on his own work, suffocating him, and somehow leaving less of him on screen."[10]

Bill Gibron of PopMatters wrote "David Lynch must be laughing. If he had created something like Only God Forgives, substituting his own quirky casting for the rather staid choices made by actual director Nicolas Winding Refn, he would have walked away from Cannes 2013 with yet another Palme d'Or, another notch in his already sizeable artistic belt, and the kind of critical appreciation that only comes when a proven auteur once again establishes his creative credentials."[30]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave this film a positive review, giving it three and a half stars saying: "Refn's follow-up effort to the similarly polarizing Drive (which I thought was flat-out great) is even more stylized and daring. Drive star Ryan Gosling (who is clearly interested in carving out a career with at least as many bold, indie-type roles as commercial, leading-man fare) strikes a Brando pose playing Julian, a smoldering, seemingly lethal American who navigates the seediest sides of Bangkok."[31]

Awards[edit]

The film won the Grand Prize at the Sydney Film Festival.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dimako, Peter (30 June 2011). "FilmDistrict acquires Nicolas Winding Refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES starring Ryan Gosling". Upcoming-Movies.com. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Labrecque, Jeff (1 March 2012). "Ryan Gosling's Thailand gangster film goes to Radius-TWC". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "ONLY GOD FORGIVES (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 28 June 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-07-03. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (22 May 2013). "Only God Forgives". Variety. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Jagernauth, Kevin (30 March 2012). "Nicolas Winding Refn Talks Making Only God Forgives & Considers Tokyo Setting For Horror I Walk With The Dead". The Playlist. IndieWire. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Only God Forgives at Box Office Mojo Retrieved 28 June 2013
  7. ^ Buchanan, Jason. "Only God Forgives". Allmovie. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  8. ^ "Hard Drive". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Lim, Dennis (22 May 2011). "Cannes Q. and A.: Driving in a Noir L.A.". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Patterson, John (27 July 2013). "Only God Forgives this level of tedium". The Guardian (Kings Place). Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "2013 Official Selection". Cannes. 18 April 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  12. ^ a b Goldberg, Matt (2 November 2011). "First Synopsis for Nicolas Winding Refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES Starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ryan Gosling". Collider.com. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Fischer, Russ (23 June 2011). "Ryan Gosling Joining Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives [Updated]". /Film. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Otto, Jeff (26 September 2011). "Ryan Gosling Calls Upcoming Project Only God Forgives The "Strangest Thing" He's Ever Read". The Playlist. IndieWire. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Mackey, Michael (27 January 2012). "Ryan Gosling Responds to Oscar Snub; Reveals Details of Project Filming in Bangkok". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  16. ^ Patches, Matt (22 May 2013). "Cannes: Ryan Gosling Only Has 17 Lines in the Bloody Only God Forgives". hollywood.com. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Arbeiter, Michael (19 July 2013). "The Mysterious Bromance of Ryan Gosling and His Only God Forgives Director Nicolas Winding Refn". hollywood.com. Retrieved 1 November 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Cannes jeers Gosling's film Only God Forgives". The Local. 22 May 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  19. ^ Fischer, Russ (2 May 2011). "Nicolas Winding Refn Casts Luke Evans and Kristin Scott-Thomas in Thai Western Only God Forgives". /Film. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  20. ^ Umstead, Ben (17 July 2013). "'Ask Not What Art Is, But What It Is Not': Nicolas Winding Refn And Cliff Martinez On ONLY GOD FORGIVES". Twitch. Retrieved 18 August 2013. 
  21. ^ Barlow, Helen (18 July 2013). "Only God Forgives: Nicolas Winding Refn interview". sbs.com.au. Retrieved 18 August 2013. 
  22. ^ Dang, Simon (11 May 2011). "Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives Adds Vithaya Pansringarm And Pop-Star Yaya Ying". The Playlist. IndieWire. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  23. ^ a b Sullivan, Kevin P. (15 June 2012). "Only God Forgives Will Share The 'Language' Of Drive". MTV Movies Blog. MTV.com. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  24. ^ Sullivan, Kevin P. (25 May 2012). "Ryan Gosling's Only God Forgives Debuts Footage At Cannes". MTV Movies Blog. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  25. ^ "Ryan Gosling film Only God Forgives divides Cannes critics". BBC News. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  26. ^ "Only God Forgives". Rotten Tomatoes. Warner Bros. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  27. ^ "Only God Forgives: Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  28. ^ Collin, Robbie (22 May 2013). "Cannes 2013: Only God Forgives, review". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  29. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (22 May 2013). "Cannes 2013: Only God Forgives – first look review". The Guardian (Kings Place). Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  30. ^ Gibron, Bill (19 July 2013). "Only God Forgives, Not this Fascinating Film's Director". PopMatters. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  31. ^ Roeper, Richard (18 July 2013). "Every bloody moment demands attention in Only God Forgives". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  32. ^ Bulbeck, Pip (18 June 2013). "Ryan Gosling Starrer Only God Forgives Wins Sydney Film Prize". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 

External links[edit]