16 June 2013 | OnZa
The plot is not really there
"Only God Forgives" is a dark, serious and ultra-violent movie. It weighs in on Asian symbolism, spiritualism and response to revenge or own hand rights. It flows more like a music video than actual movie (even though it does not have fast cuts). That description also fits "Drive" but whereas that movie gained critical acclaim, this one has had way more split response and it's easy to see why.
Considering that even with star Ryan Gosling, "Only God Forgives" is to be considered a sub-genre movie and indie release, I can predict many people go to see it because of the previous (director & lead star) collaboration "Drive". I, like many others marching into movie theater to see it, had high hopes after Drive. I jokingly said that this is "Drive II". Well, it's not.
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has leaned towards heavy symbolism here, and unfortunately at the cost of plot where one considers how movies should have even a some kind of structure and character development. I had the impression after the movie that tackling the symbolism the writer/director probably thought he had invested more to his characters than he actually has. Gosling is the less spoken man like in the predecessor Drive, but without any likability. The "heroism" of the Drive main character could have been argued on but in this case there are no heroes or good guys in the movie. Just a self made perception of each religious or other view.
Some reviews said that the movie is style of substance but again (sorry) I need to reference to Drive and question even the style. It had couple of really nice shots and scenes with unique atmoshpere but I found it lacked the coolness. Also the stylisticity (is it a word?) of some the gore scenes only show of a bad taste. In my opinion you're either full on splatter or you're on the other end of the scale, not something in between.
This type of story would have been more powerful with some kind of invested emotion. I did not feel about anything when watching this movie. That is what separates if from it's predecessor and also other great movies. Now it's barely good.
I am afraid Nicolas Winding Refn have taken a step back here, although I am also pretty sure he does not entertain a thought of mainstream acclaim -that much we've seen from the previous movies. I hope he takes a sidestep for his next movie, and tries something different because he really is talented and an INDIVIDUAL director.