In 2011, Nicolas Winding Refn’s film, Drive, took the movie industry by storm. The gritty crime-drama had just the right amount of action and art to invoke a major commercial success, raking in nearly $78 million in the box office.
Over the summer, Refn’s latest film, Only God Forgives was released. The film stars Ryan Gosling, who plays Julian, a drug-dealer by day and fight club owner by night. After his brother Billy is killed out of revenge for his own crimes, his mother Crystal, played by Kristen Scott Thomas, sends Julian out to take revenge on his brother’s killer.
According to the production notes, the film centers around a character that goes off to fight God. In this case, God takes the form of Chang, a police chief hell-bent on reforming the criminal underground through his own acts of violent punishment. Ultimately, he is the one who had Julian’s brother killed.
As one may imagine, trying to fight God is a futile effort, and Julian will learn this the hard way throughout the film.
That’s pretty much the plot of the entire movie, remarkably simple and somewhat paper thin. But what this film may lack in screenplay, it makes up in skill.
If I were to count all of the lines of dialogue in OGF, I probably wouldn’t make it out of the double digits. That’s where a lot of critics began to complain. But I commend Refn for relying on the score, produced by Cliff Martinez, and his own visual eye to tell this story.
Every single shot is artistic and that’s no over-exaggeration. If one were to take a screenshot of any scene and go hang it on a canvas in the MoMA, it would probably draw more visitors than the “Rain Room” did over the summer.
This film echoes the artistic ambitions of a bygone era. One where cheesy dialogue wasn’t the backbone of every film. Back when each shot was composed like it was a work of art, because it was.
The film is also entirely absent of any real human emotion, except for rage. It will leave any viewer craving a violent scene (which there are plenty of) just to justify that any of Refn’s characters are human at all.
It’s unfair to throw OGF into the same classification as many other modern films. Which is why some may give it a negative review. By going into this film with an open mind and appreciating it for its art, then you’ll be in for a fantastic time.
To put it simply: If you’re willing to appreciate film as a form of art, and be entertained by the artistic style, then you’ll have the utmost appreciation for OGF. If you’re simply out to drool over Goslng’s shirtless body, then I’d recommend saving your money and navigating your way to Google Images.