Author Topic: Only God Forgives  (Read 3271 times)

Totoro

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Only God Forgives
« on: July 12, 2013, 12:39:27 AM »
God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. - Psalm 7:11

I had a lot of problems with Drive. Only God Forgives feels like a film that was tailored made for me. "Hey, Will! Do you dislike my dumb machismo dialogue? I will cut 50% of it" or "Hey Will! Do you not like Ryan Gosling? Well, I will cut down his dialogue and make him more of a supporting character", etc. I liked this a lot.

As for the film, this is Refn's most mature work yet. Yes, there is violence, but it never became gratuitous nor did Refn revel in it like he did with Drive. The story is relatively simple told in a straightforward way through visuals without too much dialogue. I do hope that his next film, I Walk with the Dead, is completely silent, because, although he usually uses dialogue sparingly, there is always a character (in this case Thomas) that just says the most incredulous things that just doesn't gel with the rest of the film's tone. However, her character doesn't hold me too back from liking the film. She is, after all, Satan, while Vithaya Pansringarm is God.

Like Tabu & Spring Breakers, Only God Forgives is about one race taking over another race's culture. Julian (Ryan Gosling) & his brother, Billy (Tom Burke), run a drug ring in Thailand under their controlling mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) who lives in America. Their cover is a boxing gym. Fitting, since neither of them are boxers. They rather watch the native Thais beat themselves to death than actually engage with them. However, Billy, on one of his violent rampages, rapes and kills a 16 year old Thai prostitute (btw, Thailand, if you don't know, has the most underage prostitutes, some as young as 8). Chang (Vithaya Pasringarm), a police chief, finds Billy and the father of the prostitute. He lets the father kill Billy, then cuts off the arm of the father to punish him for pimping his daughters. This sets off a chain of events that results in escalating conflict between the drug ring and the police force. It's Whiteness Versus the Natives, the barbarism of one culture clashing against the "barbarism" of another culture. The mother wants those that killed her son and anyone related to the person dead (revenge), but Chang wants people to atone for what they have done (justice). In between these two are Julian, who struggles between what he is told to do and what he should do. Is he an outsider or is he an insider? Does he submit to the law of Thailand or does he abide to his own country's law?

Of course, there is a lot more to discuss. I need more time to dwell on this film.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 12:46:17 AM by Totoro »

Alan Smithee

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2013, 06:09:33 AM »
God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. - Psalm 7:11

I had a lot of problems with Drive. Only God Forgives feels like a film that was tailored made for me. "Hey, Will! Do you dislike my dumb machismo dialogue? I will cut 50% of it" or "Hey Will! Do you not like Ryan Gosling? Well, I will cut down his dialogue and make him more of a supporting character", etc. I liked this a lot.

As for the film, this is Refn's most mature work yet. Yes, there is violence, but it never became gratuitous nor did Refn revel in it like he did with Drive. The story is relatively simple told in a straightforward way through visuals without too much dialogue. I do hope that his next film, I Walk with the Dead, is completely silent, because, although he usually uses dialogue sparingly, there is always a character (in this case Thomas) that just says the most incredulous things that just doesn't gel with the rest of the film's tone. However, her character doesn't hold me too back from liking the film. She is, after all, Satan, while Vithaya Pansringarm is God.

Like Tabu & Spring Breakers, Only God Forgives is about one race taking over another race's culture. Julian (Ryan Gosling) & his brother, Billy (Tom Burke), run a drug ring in Thailand under their controlling mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) who lives in America. Their cover is a boxing gym. Fitting, since neither of them are boxers. They rather watch the native Thais beat themselves to death than actually engage with them. However, Billy, on one of his violent rampages, rapes and kills a 16 year old Thai prostitute (btw, Thailand, if you don't know, has the most underage prostitutes, some as young as 8). Chang (Vithaya Pasringarm), a police chief, finds Billy and the father of the prostitute. He lets the father kill Billy, then cuts off the arm of the father to punish him for pimping his daughters. This sets off a chain of events that results in escalating conflict between the drug ring and the police force. It's Whiteness Versus the Natives, the barbarism of one culture clashing against the "barbarism" of another culture. The mother wants those that killed her son and anyone related to the person dead (revenge), but Chang wants people to atone for what they have done (justice). In between these two are Julian, who struggles between what he is told to do and what he should do. Is he an outsider or is he an insider? Does he submit to the law of Thailand or does he abide to his own country's law?

Of course, there is a lot more to discuss. I need more time to dwell on this film.

Spring Breakers was about Race wars?

Totoro

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2013, 01:54:05 PM »
Amongst other things, yes.

Rowland_Howard

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2013, 03:14:01 PM »
I loved it, although I can see why it's getting so much bad press.  If you come expecting Drive, you will be seriously annoyed.  If you loved Refn's Valhalla Rising, Only God Forgives may be up your alley.  It's got that some slow-motion, hyper-masculine, hyper-stylized vibe, only this time with even more immaculate cinematography and incredible sound design and Ryan Gosling as a fairly pathetic, emasculated anti-hero.

I thought that it inverted the usual revenge tropes by making the Thai cop the avenging angel, with Gosling as his ineffectual semi-protagonist, culminating in the boxing scene.  It's not your usual revenge plot when the person killed is so loathsome that even his brother thinks he deserved to die, and the only person who wants revenge is utterly despicable (the mother). 

I kept hearing how repellent the violence is, and while it's very strong, I didn't consider it more extreme than Drive or Valhalla Rising.

Music is by Cliff Martinez, that dude is on a roll after doing an amazing job with Spring Breakers earlier this year.

Totoro

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2013, 08:43:29 PM »
Ah! This is much, much more accessible and layered than Valhalla Rising (a film I was so-so on). But yes, in terms of pace and directorial style, they are similar.

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2013, 02:09:43 AM »
I had a lot of problems with Drive. Only God Forgives feels like a film that was tailored made for me. "Hey, Will! Do you dislike my dumb machismo dialogue? I will cut 50% of it"
"Take of That Dress!" - intentionally or unintentionally funny? I vote for the un. The dialogue in Drive is nothing compared to the deliberate button-pusing drivel spouted by the mother. Was she raised in the back of a trailer? This wasn't somebody talking down to those around her or someone trying to provoke response with her coarse language. (Not that anybody reacts to anything in this movie.) It was the written equivalent of the boy who can't help doodling dicks on everything.

"Hey Will! Do you not like Ryan Gosling? Well, I will cut down his dialogue and make him more of a supporting character", etc. I liked this a lot.
Gosling was so minimalist he often just looked like a zombie A&F model. In his tailored suit walking slowly through the hall bathed in red light. You call him a supporting character, but that implies there's a "character" there at all. This was a mannequin propped up on a sofa.


As for the film, this is Refn's most mature work yet. Yes, there is violence, but it never became gratuitous nor did Refn revel in it like he did with Drive.
That's exactly what he does in the scene where the cop tortures the guy with needles. Slowly walking around the room before grabbing another set. He circles, revels and revels in the violence here exactly 4 times.

I want to like Refen. I believe he's really talented, but also his own worst enemy when he chooses to make a film in this style. Refen's speciality is the quick, loud surprise. It's evident in the Pawn Shop scene in Drive and here at the machine gun attack. There's a moment where the cop drops a guy and it's just BAM!-Down!-Done!. That's followed by a blast that goes through some glass. Refen loves the slow motion, but he brings an action scene to life like few others when his foot is on the gas.

I didn't miss that there's a lot more here than meets the eye initially. Refen's script puts revenge through the looking glass, and how it looks on the other side is fairly interesting. It's different on that level, and it's almost good for being different. However, in the end we have a 20 minute story stretched to 90 minutes. I think he might be going for Leone style, but he never sustains any mood beyond the gloss.
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Lobby

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2013, 02:18:26 AM »
I've written about this movie a while ago. It's hidden somewhere in the last-movie-watched thread, but we're not supposed to double post anyway.

The short version is that I fell for its good looks (and I'm NOT referring to Gosling here). It reminded me of Lynch and it somehow spellbound me. 4/5.
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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2013, 02:33:37 AM »
They sighed at the over-the-top violence, they despised Ryan Gosling’s quietly staring appearance, calling it a parody on himself, mocking him for the all in all 17 lines he had in the movie (I haven’t counted it myself, but it seems plausible.) And they loathed it for being so pretty and stylish, considering it a bimbo movie, which looked great but was void of any substance, soul or meaning.

...

To that I don’t have any clear answer. It probably was a combination: one part the attraction of Ryan Gosling’s presence, one part the memory that I actually had given Drive a 4,5/5 rating, despite my quandaries, one part rebellion against the establishment.

Agreeing with your National critics, I also though Gosling was doing a parody. There was an intensity behind those eyes in Drive. Here it wasn't cold and dead (which could fit the character) it was completely empty. I admire a performance with only 17 lines, but have something to give us in the meantime. Perhaps a reaction, but he is very accepting of everything and everyone which makes him uninteresting to watch.

Some of the lighting is stylish in a good way, but too often it's just bathed in a flat red. Compare this to Spring Breakers, which found interesting uses for colors. That only happens occasionally here.


The critic who gave Only God Forgives a 5/5 knew what he was doing. No sunstroke there. On the other hand I’d say the same thing about those who gave it a 2/5. I hear you all guys, regardless of where on the scale you are.
I read Richard Roeper, who called it one of the year's best, and Michael Phillips, who gave it Zero Stars. I understand where both are coming from.
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Totoro

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #8 on: July 21, 2013, 04:15:13 PM »
I really feel like I am on another planet with all of these negative reactions. In fact, I could quote 1SO almost verbatim for a review of Drive.

1SO

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Re: Only God Forgives
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2013, 04:28:13 PM »
Do you listen to the Podcast? I think Matt Singer and Alison Willmore give a very even-handed analysis that covers all the ground between you and me.

My question about "Take off That Dress!" is a legitimate one. What was your reaction? They talk about it on the podcast, but I thought it was poorly done and made me laugh.
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