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Cannes 2013 Review: Only God Forgives


A family of drug-smugglers get into some dirty business when one brother messes with the wrong people. The lasting brother, Julian, is forced to set things right by his no-nonsense mother.

Who’s in it?
Ryan Gosling plays Julian, a drug-smuggler living in Thailand. Get ready to see him get beat up by the terrifying Vithaya Pansringarm. Tom Burke has a short-lived moment, then there’s leading B-list ladies Kristin Scott Thomas and Yayaying Rhatha Phongam tugging for Gosling’s attention…

I love Ryan Gosling. I mean, who doesn’t? But even this beautiful man couldn’t soothe my disappointment with Only God Forgives. Sure, Drive was amazing. But Nicolas Winding Refn just crashed and burned in this film.

It’s all style. I can’t deny the beautiful location and with it, beautiful photography, but the less-than-sub-par story line and opera music just killed it for me. There’s gruesome, violent scenes that are great and gory, but really don’t compare to the wider variety of blood-splattering films.

Cool, this is set in Bangkok, Thailand. Opening with a boxing club, Julian (Ryan Gosling) and his brother Billy (Tom Burke) are some seriously disturbed kids smuggling drugs behind the glitz and glamour of this little fight club.

You get random scenes of Julian in dark corridors, in front of prostitutes, in front of fights, in front of whatever. You have absolutely no idea if this is a flashback, a shot into the future, the present, or even the room next door. You never know what’s happening. It’s a complete displacement of time and it’s annoying.

Another thing that’s annoying is the opera music. And some karaoke singing (yep, that happened. On more than one occasion). And like a harmonica or something? Thanks for putting in loud, obnoxious music during scenes of no dialogue so I can like, have a mini spastic attack or sort of think that something really really violent is about to happen.

There’s some awkward family affair between Julian and Billy. His mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) comes in to get even when Billy gets murdered, which opens a whole can of worms. It brings upon a series of random kills that are really just mediocre. We’re done with the machete, can we move on to another weapon now?

Although the man of the hour is Chang, played by Vithaya Pansringarm. He’s just the scariest middle-aged Asian man I’ve ever seen on the big screen. It’s ridiculous what this guy is capable of, with his power over the corrupted police system and his general indifference to any and all forms of torture, violence, and everything else in-between.

You might not get to see a whole lot of physical fist-to-fist action, but you’ll shut your eyes at some really twitchy scenes involving Chinese chopsticks. And that’s when things start getting interesting.

There is one great scene to note, though. Despite my love for Ryan Gosling, it was kind of thrilling to watch him get beat up. The second half of the film is a sore-faced Gosling with a broken nose. Let me also not that even with a completely screwed up face he’s wildly attractive. Because, you know, it’s Gosling.

Should You See It?
No. Not even for Ryan Gosling.

Memorable Quote:
“Wanna fight?”

Amanda Chen

A local celebrity herself, she's got the 411 on everything happening in Hollywood. She knows what she likes and her sass-mouth says it loud and clear. Follow her for the latest gossip and reviews on your favorite movies.