Only God Forgives (2013)

I would be kidding myself if I said I liked this film. But, like with The Neon Demon, I can appreciate it, and I know it will stick with me.

I learned yesterday that Nicolas Winding Refn turned down the opportunity to direct the James Bond film Spectre, and for a good reason. He turned it down because it’s not about the money to him. It’s about being able to do what he wants as an artist.

Watching this film, you can see that. This film is not about the story. It’s about the images and the neon orgasm of their compositions. Julian (Ryan Gosling) is tasked with avenging his brother’s death, but maybe he doesn’t want to. His brother raped and killed an underage prostitute, and the police chief who condemned it is still out to punish. By the end, everyone has blood on their hands—if they still have hands at all.

This film is a pulpy, gory feast. It’s dedicated to Alejandro Jodorowsky, and I can see why. The story is there by necessity, but the film is better told by feelings than plot. This film could have no plot at all, and it would look and feel the same way.

Drive is my favorite Nicolas Winding Refn film, having irreversibly changed my life. Only God Forgives, though, is a different beast, a follow-up designed to entice the fans of Drive—called “drivers,” perhaps. It’s just that it’s far from the same thing. This film is indulgent. Drive was a masterpiece, whereas this is more of a piece by a master.

You probably won’t like it too much. Critics didn’t, nor did audiences. But Winding Refn couldn’t care less, and I think that’s awesome. He does what he wants.

2.5

Only God Forgives is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Amazon Prime Video.

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