Only God Forgives (2013)
Violent, vulgar, and morally deplorable. Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” is a potent, virus-like blend of the director’s brilliant, ever-expanding repertoire and showcases Refn at his most abstract and unrestrained. Featuring another intentionally heartless, complex, and remorseless performance from Ryan Gosling. “Only God Forgives” might not be as structurally sound or hauntingly visceral as the duo’s previous collaboration, but it is undoubtedly another art-house spectacle from the rapidly ascending team. Although visually beautiful, “Only God Forgives” remains simultaneously disturbing and littered with symbolism. Clocking in just short of ninety-minutes, its compact and offers a lot of content to absorb, yet isn’t easy to chew or digest. Its vivid, surreal, and ferocious, which makes “Only God Forgives” a delight for Refn veterans and will most likely deprive occasional cinephiles of any remaining cinematic innocence or consciousness.
Julian (Gosling) is an american living in Bangkok. He runs a boxing club, which is a front for his family’s massive drug smuggling operation. His older brother Billy heads out for a night of self-destruction and is eventually murdered. Soon, Crystal (Thomas), Julian’s mother, arrives and arranges for her son’s murderer to be killed. When the family finds out that Lieutenant Chang (Pansringarm) is also embedded in the killing, Julian is urged to to take his life, but it is not that simple.
It’s a veritable sucker-punch to structural cinema, character labels, and appropriated guidelines. “Only God Forgives” is sure to frustrate and enrage many with its sparse, unsuited dialogue, frequent sequences of prolonged eye-contact, and neon-lit brutality. Nonetheless, the film is an undeniable visual feast and its dynamic, allegoric storyline is beautiful, imagistic, and emblematic. Undoubtedly, some will claim “Only God Forgives” to be nothing more than an exercise in violence, frightening imagery, and shock. Granted, the substance may not be as prominent and hypnotic as Refn’s hyper-style. However, if you dig under “Only God Forgives” sensationalized, hallucinant surface, you’ll surely find the devil in the details. It may not be the answer you’re looking for, seeing as the material is just as touchy and delicate as Refn’s breathtaking, foreboding visuals, but it is the answer regardless.
“Only God Forgives” is an expressionistic piece of humanity fighting physically, vitally for their soul and mind against hallowed, unquestionable, fearfully revered beings. Whether you chose to brand it temptation, good against evil, man against god, etc…There is a battle of morality and mortality raging inside every single one of us and Refn has conveyed this message with his typically subtle, violent, suave flare. Some may confuse this for pretentiousness, infer that the film lacks grounding, or insist they cannot relate to the film’s characters. Plainly put, you’re not meant to connect with the exterior qualities of “Only God Forgives.” Refn masked the message intentionally with sexual dysfunction, fury, and stoic characters, essentially the opposite of everything we live and die for. Anything worthwhile isn’t easy to obtain.
Amidst all the chaos, symbolism, and violence. “Only God Forgives” portrays an unnerving, obscure, and powerful family drama. While dealing with one another and their own, personal identity crises, true intentions and characteristics are revealed. The viewer is subjected to this unflinching gaze at self-destruction, madness, and honesty, which rivals even the most stomach-churning gore and bone-shattering violence Refn can concoct. Additionally, each individual is dissected through their actions and must suffer the consequences. This is quite possibly the most important facet of “Only God Forgives:” action, reaction, and consequence.
Without question, what drives an experimental, artistic film such as “Only God Forgives” is the cast’s performances, it is essentially cinema’s marrow. Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristen Scott Thomas, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, and Vithaya Pansringarm. Refn has found himself vibrant, strong, and flourishing facets to comprise this heartless mechanism that keeps “Only God Forgives” chugging along.
Yayaying Rhatha Phongam really caught me off guard, she is outstanding throughout the film and looks really good doing so. However, in comparison to her co-stars, she just can’t measure up. You’d think that portraying distant, emotionally void, and bereaved would defeat precisely what cinema stands for, yet, it’s quite the opposite. Apparently, Ryan Gosling could care less what some viewers thought of his faceless, malicious, in my opinion brilliant performance in Refn’s previous flick “Drive” and decided to do it all again…and I am so thankful he did. While it may not top his performance in “Drive,” it’s a completely different form of inhumanity and proves Gosling has got the chops. What can I say about Vithaya Pansringarm? His character’s passion, uniqueness, and intimidation may have stemmed from Refn’s screenplay, but Pansringarm brought it to immaculate life. While I can’t say I’m a big fan of Kristen Scott Thomas, I can say that you will full-heartedly hate her in “Only God Forgives,” which I am assuming is what they were aiming for.
Although it might not be clear-cut, family-friendly, or easy to watch, “Only God Forgives” is why I love cinema. If you can stomach its bloody violence and understand its message, Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” is well worth the arduous journey.
Only God Forgives: 8.5 out of 10.
Top 10 Emerging Directors
C’mon guys, we all know the truth. As cinephiles, we are apart of a very select group that don’t joke around about movies, unless they’re directed by Michael Bay. The sad truth is that not everyone is as inclined to obsess over cinema as we are. At times they can’t differentiate what is a truly good film and which is bad. After recently speaking to people I know at random about the film industry, I realized that not a lot of people are familiar with the actors on screen, let alone the people behind the camera. This list is for all of you out there who have better things to do than compile a cinematic top 10, essentially those who have a life, unlike me.
This list isn’t about household names like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg. This list is about the up and comers, those who’ve solidified a base for themselves and that we look forward to seeing add and build on top of it. Again, as always this is my personal list, not the opinion of the general public. So, let’s get started.
10: James Wan.
Why you should know him: Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010).
What to expect from him: The Conjuring (2013) and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013).
9: Ben Wheatley.
Why you should know him: Sightseers (2012) and Kill List (2011).
What to expect from him: A Field in England (2013).
8: Rian Johnson.
Why you should know him: Looper (2012).
What to expect from him: Nothing in the works as of the moment.
7: Joss Whedon.
Why you should know him. The Avengers (2012) and Much Ado About Nothing (2012).
What to expect from him: The Avengers 2 (2015).
6: Edgar Wright.
Why you should know him: Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).
What to expect from him: The World’s End (2013) and Ant-Man (2015).
5: Derek Cianfrance.
Why you should know him: Blue Valentine (2010) and The Place Beyond the Pines (2012).
What to expect from him: Nothing scheduled as of the moment.
4: Duncan Jones.
Why you should know him: Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011).
What to expect from him: Warcraft (2015).
3: Nicolas Winding Refn.
Why you should know him: Bronson (2008) and Drive (2011).
What to expect from him: Only God Forgives (2013).
2: Steve McQueen.
Why you should know him: Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011).
What to expect from him: Twelve Years a Slave (2013).
1: Jeff Nichols.
Why you should know him: Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011).
What to expect from him: Mud (2012-2013).
If you feel that I’ve overlooked someone or have an issue with the top 10 feel free to comment below. Actually if you have anything to say comment below. Have a good weekend.
Top 10 Films of 2013 Predicted
To make the directive of this list clear. The films contained are what myself and cinema2033 believe to be the best hopes for cinema in 2013. Again, these are our preferential films, not that of the general viewing public. We are simply predicting what we think will be our favourite or preferred films of the year. We will be creating a separate list with what we believe to be the most anticipated films of 2013. That list will be our perceived notions from discussing and judging the amount of publicity, budget, and overall excitement of the general public. Without further delay, Enjoy another chapter of our top 10 series.
Let’s begin this list with the honourable mentions. Stoker, A Single Shot, The Look of Love, American Hustle, Don Jon, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, The Fifth Estate, Out of the Furnace, Kill Your Darlings, and Before Midnight. We would also like to insert Terrence Malick’s 2013 film, even though its cast, story, and release date are kind of up in the air at the moment.
10: Inside Llewyn Davis. Directed and written by the Coen brothers and starring Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman. Inside Llewyn Davis is sure to be another Coen brother smash.
9: Mud. Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols, the mind behind Shotgun Stories and the hauntingly epic Take Shelter. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Michael Shannon.
8: Trance. The new film from the brilliant Danny Boyle. Trance is a mind-bending thrill ride featuring outstanding performances from James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel.
7: The Counselor. Based on Cormac McCarthy’s incredible novel and helmed by none other than Ridley Scott. With its outstanding cast that features Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Javier Bardem. The Counselor is ripe with genius and ready for viewing.
6: The Place Beyond the Pines. Directed by Derek Cianfrance and starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Rose Byrne, and Ben Mendelsohn. The Place Beyond the Pines is an intricate gem.
5: The Way, Way Back. What seems to be an endearing coming of age romantic comedy. The Way, Way Back looks to have another outstanding performance from Sam Rockwell and an unusual role for Steve Carrell.
4: Nymphomaniac. Directed by the creative and controversial Lars von Trier. Nymphomaniac appears to be a fresh take on sexual addiction with Shia LaBeouf, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Stellan Skarsgard leading the way.
3: The Wolf of Wall Street. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, need I say more?
2: Only God Forgives. The Duo of Gosling and Refn appear to be stealing the spotlight from Scorsese and DiCaprio, and rightfully so. This follow up to their 2011 hit Drive is one of the most anticipated releases of 2013.
1: Twelve Years a Slave. Steve McQueen, director of Hunger and Shame, teams up once again with Michael Fassbender for this mid-1800 slavery epic. Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, and Scoot McNairy. Twelve Years a Slave has all the key facets to take top spot as our best film of 2013 predicted.
If you think we overlooked a film or made a grave error on our list, please comment below. Also, if you have recommendations for future top 10’s, don’t hesitate to let us know.
About as peculiar of a movie you’ll find, Bronson is a highly unique, highly surreal biographical drama that is visually extreme and darkly comic. Bronson is brought to life on the big screen by the brilliant Nicolas Winding Refn who’s anticipated follow up to 2011’s cult hit Drive, Only God Forgives, is ready to hit theatres in May of 2013. Tom Hardy takes on the visceral and challenging role of press proclaimed “most violent prisoner in Britain,” Michael Gordon Peterson, who later changed his name to Charles Bronson with the help of his bare-knuckle boxing promoter. Bronson is a polarizing look into the life of Charles Bronson and the harsh conditions and frightening reality he lived in.
As a young adult, Michael Peterson (Hardy) had his head full of incompetent schemes and the need to make a name for himself. With a shoddy shotgun with the barrels sawed off, Peterson went off to achieve his dreams by robbing a post office. After being apprehended rather quickly, Peterson was sentenced to 7 years in prison. During that time, Peterson continued on his wayward path to stardom by physically assaulting other inmates and guards. Eventually serving 34 years in prison, 30 of which were in solitary confinement, quite possibly by choice, the young ambitious man that was Michael Peterson turned into a turmoil hardened man capable of anything.
Focusing just as much time on the undertones and artistic value of Charles Bronson as well as the anger and rebellion. Refn and Hardy transform what could have been a tale of cerebral violence into a multidimensional character the audience can sympathize with. Tom Hardy goes all out for Bronson. Adding roughly 40 pounds to his frame, every ounce of effort Hardy puts into this film pays dividends which haven’t been seen since his best outing in Stuart: A Life Backwards. Refn enhances the comedic quality of Hardy and displays it subtly, the way it should be dealt with alongside the bitter and at times upsetting themes throughout Bronson. Bronson may not be for everyone, it is unorthodox, elemental, and excessive. That being said, Bronson is a cinematic highlight containing a career defining performance from Hardy and is an early building block for one of best current directors Nicolas Winding Refn, all these qualities make Bronson a must see.
Bronson: 8.5 out of 10.