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Nicolas Winding Refn, director of such masterpieces as Drive and Bronson, now brings us his newest film Only God Forgives. It's an over-stylized, egocentric pile of garbage that doesn't do anything to solidify Refn as a respectable director. The story revolves around Julian (Ryan Gosling), who is sent on a revenge mission by his mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) after his brother is killed by a Chinese mob boss (Vithaya Pansringarm). The story doesn't take unexpected turns and there's nothing absorbing about the journey. It's a difficult watch for all the wrong reasons.
What Refn did so well in past films was his sense of knowing what his characters wanted. He knew how to create a world where the characters fit. In Only God Forgives he creates a world eerily similar to Drive, but this time it simply doesn't work. Julian doesn't fit and the story is so horribly constructed and self-defeating. The only redeeming quality of this film is the end credits.
The writing feels like it's the first draft of a film student's first screenplay. The dialogue is choppy and laughable when there is dialogue. When the film hit its 30 minute mark, Ryan Gosling had spoken a total of three times. Throughout the entire film he has a grand total of 17 lines. Refn tries to recreate his character from Drive, but doesn't realize what made that character compelling - depth. Julian is about as flat as a wall, and none of the supporting cast help at all. The one emotional outburst in the film comes about halfway through and it's pseudo rage that causes more damage than it does draw an emotional response.
The cinematography is okay to look at. It's flashy and appealing, but there's nothing special - it's not something fresh and new like you would expect from Refn. It feels like an ego trip gone horribly wrong. The music is good, but for the most part, it never really fits with what's going on. The violence feels unnecessary, and for the most part makes no sense. This film suffers from no payoffs to its touchy subtext of incest, drugs and violence. Refn tries to prove that he's the greatest director in Hollywood, but this proves that he needs to put craft before ego. Only God Forgives is out on DVD now. Don't bother renting it and save yourself 90 minutes. I give Only God Forgives 1 star out of 5.
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