Only God Forgives (Blu-ray)

October 8, 2013 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Ryan Gosling can smile, right?  Because I think I’ve seen him smile in a movie before and I’m quite sure that he’s capable of doing it again.  Ok, so maybe he doesn’t smile in Only God Forgives, but I have to believe that in the future some director will say “Hey Ryan, show us those pearly whites of yours!” and he’ll force the atrophied muscles around his mouth to produce a smile.  It’s got to happen.  All kidding aside, I have to say that I’ve read a lot about this film and could’t wait to pop it in my player. After watching Drive, Gosling’s first teaming with director Nicolas Winding Refn, I was excited to see that the two were once again collaborating on a project. Now the down side is that this movie is so polarizing that it’s hailed as the best movie in years or it’s one of those that people walk out of and/or boo upon its conclusion.  As for my point of view, well…read on.

Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs an illegal drug ring in Bangkok with a fighting club as a front.  Julian’s brother, Billy (Tom Burke), isn’t the mild-mannered soul that his sibling is.  Billy’s got some issues and when looking for an underage prostitute, he finds one.  He then kills her.  The prostitute’s father is allowed revenge on Billy and, in turn, kills him.  We then meet Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas) who demands that Julian seek revenge for his brother’s death.  Having found the man responsible (who has had his hands cut off by the magistrate Chang – Vithaya Pansringarm), he refuses to kill him.  However Crystal is incessant and her badgering only perpetuates a situation which is volatile to say the least.

As I mentioned earlier, people will either love or hate this film.  On one hand it’s only 90 minutes but you’ll feel each and every one of those minutes due to the slow pace of the film.  Those who have seen Drive can get a feel for how this will flow and will either savor each and every moment or will skip to the next chapter hoping for some action.  Gosling doesn’t smile in this movie, my first few sentences were made in jest, but it’s true.  He’s got about a paragraph of dialogue in the film total. Yes, really.  And as beautifully as the film is shot, some might get a bit tired of the pinkish-neon hues that so utterly define it.  Did I like the movie? I did.  Though I found myself walking a thin line as to praise it or not.  What else can I say, to be loved – you’ve got to be hated.

Video: How’s it look?

Cinematographer Larry Smith has crafted one of the most visually unique films I’ve seen in quite some time.  I’m all for things being unique and am reminded of recent films like Sin City or 300 that each had a very stylized look and feel.  Only God Forgives comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1 AVC HD image that looks good on one hand, but can look downright disgusting if in the right (or wrong) frame of mind.  Let me explain…the pink hues are a visual treat, but those contrasted with the darker scenes seem to leave a “ghost” (or at least it did to me) and make the film appear a bit on the blurry side. It’s not, the detail is razor sharp with black levels and contrast working on concert with one another.  Still, I have to applaud the stylized look here. It works.

Audio: How’s it sound?

I reviewed a movie a few months back called Aftershock.  It wasn’t that great, but the opening sequence had my subwoofer doing things it’s never done.  Such is the case with this film in that the opening sequence ignites the LFE’s and really gets your attention.  Much like Drive, there seems to be an homage to the movies of the 80’s with the synthesizer-induced score.  I’m also reminded of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, though that film had more of a classical tint to it.  Regardless, vocals are a bit on the low side and even when Gosling does speak, it’s hard to make out what he says.  Surrounds are active, the rain seems to come alive in a scene and it makes for a very interesting sound design.  Again – polarizing.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Director Nicolas Winding Refn teams up with a moderator – Damon Wise as the two look at the film and compare and contrast it with Drive.  This is actually one film in which I really recommend the commentary track, though some might be so disgusted with the film they won’t give it a chance.  It’s a good, technical and informative track and certainly worth a listen.
  • Director Interviews – Two segments are featured about filming in Thailand and another about genre films.
  • Behind the Scenes – Some of these are so short I’m not going to include a synopsis as to what they’re about.  Those included are “The Drug Trade”, “Staging the Brothel Scene”, “Framing the Gun Fight”, “The Sword You Execute People With”, “Slicing the Arm”, “Prepping for the Shootout”, “The Sincerest Form of Flattery”, “A Face for Radio”, “On the Sets with Refn”, “The Tongue”, “Kendo Techniques”, and “Violence is Like Sex”.
  • The Music of Only God Forgives with Cliff Martinez – Composer Cliff Martinez shares his views on the sound design for the film.

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