"Excitement pretty quickly melted into disappointment""
"So many long hallways to walk down."
"Did I mention I'm going to Thailand this summer - remind me not to get involved in a boxing ring or drug dealing."
Cool is in the ballpark with funny. If I think something’s cool, it’s difficult to communicate why I think so. I thought Drive, Nicholas Winding-Refn’s movie before Only God Forgives, was incredibly cool. Ryan Gosling’s gloves and jacket, Albert Brooks’s razor collection, the soundtrack; if 16-year-old me saw it, it would’ve easily displaced Face-Off as my all-time favorite movie at the time. Drive turned me on to Refn’s other work and after getting through Bronson (impossibly weird) and the Pusher trilogy (varies from good to great), I was sufficiently excited for Only God Forgives.
Excitement pretty quickly melted into disappointment. This is pretty oppressive throughout. Gosling’s character has nothing going on upstairs. His Drive character was all resolute, ultra-competent action. He’s a passive, wet fart here, and therefore, completely uninteresting. His mother, who was clearly a molester, has more going on, but it’s one note compared to no notes; be consistently awful. She’s a cartoon villain and the movie’s not interested in developing her past a c-bomb dropping psychopath who compares her sons’ dick sizes. The Thai detective was a welcome contrast, such that he deserved the win and he had the Driver’s cool, but he was still subject to Refn’s insane directing choices.
If Only God Forgives was filmed at normal speed, it would be shorter than an episode of Game of Thrones. So many long hallways to walk down. The color palette was so extreme that it had to mean something, though I couldn’t figure it out. I tried keeping track of who was shot with a red filter versus a blue filter but I lost track. I also lost the thread for any thematic connection. Something this superficially arty has to have more on its mind than just revenge. Maybe it was about women that shouldn’t be mothers? Maybe the key was the statue the camera kept cutting to during the fight between Gosling and the detective? Am I over-thinking it and giving Refn too much credit? I also really disliked the ending scene in the detective’s home. The detective’s daughter was put in danger only to manipulate the viewer. Was there any doubt Gosling was going to kill his accomplice before the daughter was killed? The nanny and the police guard can go fuck themselves, but a dramatic split-second decision to save a child? Clearly, Gosling’s turned the corner!
There were enough things I liked to get it into the three-star, C range. While not as uniformly strong a soundtrack as Drive, there were some strong tracks, particularly in the scene where the detective practices his swordplay. The aforementioned fight had strong choreography, and the right people got their comeuppance/had their insides groped by their son for some reason. I’ll be going into the next Refn film with more caution. This had its handful of moments, but was a complete misstep.
What did everyone else thing? Clearly, you loved it…