Only God Forgives
Two days later and I’m still trying to find the words to describe my reaction to Only God Forgives. And those two are the politest I can come up with.
We were warned that we’d either love it or hate it, but I’m not certain that either of those words will suffice. I mean – Gosling is still a babe and all… which is the most important thing… but this film will make you think of him a little bit differently than the ‘Noah’ we all dream our boyfriends and husbands would be.
Julian Thompson (Gosling) and his brother Billy (Tom Burke) run a Thai boxing club in Bangkok, which is really a front for a massive drug smuggling operation, headed up by their mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), who runs the American arm of the business. As you can imagine, the Thompson family are less than upstanding citizens, with Julian spending his nights fueled by drug-taking and intercourse with prostitutes and Billy brutaly raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl before handing himself over to the police. Lieutenant Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), also known as the “Angel of Death”, seeks out the girl’s father, Choi Yan Lee, and allows him to take revenge on Billy for his daughter’s death. Following this, Chang cuts off Lee’s arm for forcing his daughters into prostitution. The film then turns into a bloody, ruthless mess of revenge, stabbing, gouging, beating, shooting, swearing and boxing.
If you look beyond the savage violence, Only God Forgives presents themes of acceptance, morality and justice. While Crystal might be a terrible mother, who asks too much of Julian and is the epitome of how-not-to-parent-101, we see Julian struggling to gain her acceptance, while at the same time knowing that her requests of him are beyond morally wrong. We also see Chang’s reaction to dealing with horrific crimes, and taking the law into his own hands, with a strange sense of justice.
While the film is takes its time, spending multiple minutes focusing on Julian clenching and unclenching his fists, watching characters footsteps as if they were the beat of a metronome, and awkward karaoke scenes, it’s only 90 minutes. And I know I’ve being able to concentrate on less entertaining things for more time – take Facebook for example…
Like Drive, this is a film that you want to be in a cinema full of people committed to keeping quiet and concentrating on the film. No texting, no checking the time, no popcorn, no skittles, no shuffling, and definitely no talking. It’s dark, moody, emotional and has lots of quiet-bits that are ruined by any external distractions.
If you’re looking for a great first-date film to stir warm, fuzzy feelings, DON’T see Only God Forgives. However, if you loved ‘Drive’ and are in the mood for something brooding, and slightly (or incredibly) horrific, I really recommend this film. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but with all the feel-good Hollywood blockbusters and superhero films that have been flooding our screens, there is definitely space in the market for something a bit more brutal and raw.