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Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives poster.jpgI have a very strong appreciation for the films of Nicolas Winding Refn.  His 2011 film Drive was my favorite film of that of that year, really blowing away anything that remotely came close too it.  He sticks with his boy Ryan Gosling in his follow up Only God Forgives, a mind bending asian crime noir that borrows much from the works of director Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Jodorwsky is famous for arthouse films such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain which I’m pretty sure you need to be on acid to understand.  The extreme of art-house cinema.

Gosling doesn’t change the routine up too much here from his character in Drive. He says very little, while giving off an air of impending doom and violence.  He plays a drug smuggler  named Julian who runs a boxing club as a front for his escapades.  Things get messed up when his brother Billy has some “issues” with a prostitute.  This leads to the entire turn of events in the film for Julian.  He goes after crooked cop, Lieutenant Chang, in an eye for an eye revenge plot.

Chang says about…I think zero words the entire time, but he is one bad dude.  Julian doesn’t know what he’s in for.  Somehow Julian’s mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) gets wrapped up in the mix and owes a debt to Chang.  Julian will try and help her as well.  Then a whole bunch of crazy and bizarre stuff happens.

The film is beautiful.  Wonderfully shot, and cinematography is never an issue with Refn.  I think he just goes off the rails a little bit, because frankly the film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Strangely I have no problem with this because A) I’m familiar with both Refn and Jodorwsky’s work and B) It really is a dream dreamy, beautiful film…with a ton of blood.

Refn takes a lot of chances here in every way, and I commend him for that.  I think he strays slightly though.  He tries to basically make Drive over again pushing the limits of his filmmaking ability.  The thing is though that Drive is a perfect film, and while I really like Only God Forgives, it is far from perfect.  I can deal with the imperfections though.  What he gives us is a sort of David Lynch meets Takashi Miike ulta-violent film that is just entertaining enough to keep you engaged.

Refn is becoming one of those filmmakers that can really do no wrong, he can only try and top himself. I didn’t personally like his film Bronson but i thought the film looked and felt great.  I just didn’t like the overall execution.  The thing is it’s better to experience one of his films than sit through an Adam Sandler movie any day of the week.  You’ll always get a unique experience.  He always make a great film, and he does so here. He only misses the mark slightly.

Grade: B+