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Only God Forgives(2013)
Ryan Gosling and Kristin Scott Thomas star in this violent, Thai-set revenge thriller directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Lying low in Bangkok ten years after killing a cop, Julian runs a Thai boxing club as a cover for his family's drugs business. But when his brother kills a local prostitute, and is then slain in retribution, Julian's mother Jenna arrives in the city demanding that he track down the killer and mete out revenge. After learning that the man responsible is a retired police officer and lone dispenser of justice known as 'The Angel of Vengeance', Julian, confident of success, sets out to find him, little realising what he has taken on.
For more about Only God Forgives and the Only God Forgives Blu-ray release, see Only God Forgives Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 5, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Burke, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
» See full cast & crew
Only God Forgives Blu-ray Review
Skipping this movie? Unforgivable.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 5, 2013
Only God Forgives is fully a product of its filmmaker. Not that any film is not in some way a product of its filmmaker but there's a certain air of both visual familiarity and reserved confidence to the film that's quite unlike anything else out there not directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. He may not be the hottest mass market director on the cinema scene today, but he's certainly the most visually creative and most understanding of the power of cinematic subtlety and nuance, the strengths of intense focus on the task, and the benefits of leaving out typical Hollywood thrills and spills in favor of a more grounded, stylish experience in which the picture's tone and visual structure play a more critical role in telling the story than any other piece. He found tremendous success with the formula in Drive, a rather divisive but, for the audience that loved it, incredibly well assembled film that made style cool again. Unfortunately, Only God Forgives doesn't find quite the same level of success. It's beautifully crafted but may feel a little empty underneath the surface upon a first watch considering its apparent lack of layered nuance and purpose beyond the visually arresting overlay. It's a very high quality film, but fans expecting something that equals or bests Drive will walk away somewhat disappointed but nevertheless satisfied with the greater whole.
Julian (Ryan Gosling) is an American operating a fighting club in Bangkok that's actually a front for a lucrative illegal drug business. Despite his shady dealings, he's mostly on the straight-and-narrow, keeping his head down and staying out of trouble. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his brother Billy (Tom Burke) who is killed after he murders a pimp's daughter. Julian's mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives and demands Julian avenge his brother's death. Julian, however, finds sympathy for the man who murdered his brother and refuses to kill him. Crystal finds Julian's action inexcusable. She insults his girlfriend Mai (Rhatha Phongam) and instigates a string of events that will forever alter her family's future and fortunes.
Only God Forgives positively enthralls with its perfectly executed style that's sort of like Tarantino in slow motion. The film is unquestionably beautiful from start to finish. It's often drenched in a sea of harsh red background lighting and defined by slow moving camera pans; lingering, reflexive character portraits; artful framing of characters and their backdrops; and occasionally excellent use of light and shadow contrasted one against the other. Nicolas Winding Refn gets the most from every setting and backdrop, camera angle, lighting intensity, deliberate movement and pause, and other stylistic aids to not simply shape the movie but rather define it and, in many ways, tell it. He certainly has a gift for precise filmmaking of the anti-Hollywood loud noise and fast movement sort. The picture doesn't often resort to dialogue and even more rarely asks its actors to deliver lengthy monologues or exchanges. Much of the story is told through its visual structure and through only small bursts of verbal information when necessary. The film leaves behind even a hint of humor in favor of dramatic intensity and visual exactness the likes of which are rare in cinema, and even more rare when they're accomplished this well.
However, the film would appear to falter because, unlike Drive, it feels a little too far to the extreme, lacking substance, character growth, and plot details. The narrative, as well as it's shaped by the focus on superficial elements, never feels thoroughly defined upon initial viewing. There are certainly hints and even larger, broader character narratives at play -- Julian's choices and his relationships with the women in his life are particularly interesting, as is the cop who dishes his own brand of justice and violence and revenge through the film -- but they're not so thoroughly explored as they might should be. Then again, this is unquestionably a film that demands multiple viewings, to see it several times with the secrets exposed, the end known, and the context more open from the beginning. There's simply too much good here for what amounts, on a first viewing, to a satisfying structure but lacking narrative. What does the film say through those reflexive character shots? What does the brutality say beyond the superficial? How do the karaoke scenes better define the movie? Only God Forgives certainly isn't a film to fully judge after a single viewing. Fortunately, it's good enough to watch several times even if only for its outward stylings, but there's much more depth here that will slowly reveal over time.
Only God Forgives Blu-ray, Video Quality
Only God Forgives arrives on Blu-ray with a rock-solid high definition presentation. Anchor Bay's transfer displays Refn's digitally photographed picture very accurately, only occasionally succumbing to an excess of noise or heavy-handed black levels. Generally, however, the image appears very clean, whether in its bright, naturally lit scenes or the red-drenched sequences that populate much of the film. Details can be a little flat in those lower light, red-heavy shots but highly impressive in the brighter moments where clothing and facial textures are naturally and intricately presented. Pebbly terrain, cracked paint, and other environmental qualities also look fantastic in the right light. Colors, too, are almost completely a product of the environment. Some beautiful neon and bright city lights look great against nighttime backdrops, while the palette enjoys a natural, even, and vibrant appearance in bright daytime shots. Despite a few minor issues, this transfer looks terrific on Blu-ray.
Only God Forgives Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Only God Forgives features an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The film begins with very heavy, rattly bass that's one part deep and even and another part excess. Things even out, however, soon thereafter. The track features strong general clarity across all elements, whether dialogue (sporadic as it may be), heavy action, or atmosphere. The early fighting scene enjoys rich, full crowd noise. Cheers and screams enter the stage from all directions, perhaps a touch aggressively through the back but the net effect is positive and enjoyable. Drenching rains saturate the stage to excellent effect in one later scene. This is a very well put-togther soundtrack, one that helps shape the film's fairly disturbing and reflective world quite well. It's quiet when necessary, energized when the film demands, and it always finds a positive spirit and presence through every scene.
Only God Forgives Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Only God Forgives contains an audio commentary track, several interviews, and a dozen short on-set clips.
Only God Forgives Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Only God Forgives is a brutally violent but stylistically captivating film that's layered beyond its surface. The problem is that said surface is so refined, so beautiful that it's sometimes difficult to see the deeper themes and meaning underneath. Multiple viewings open up the film and a second proves much more satisfying than the first when it's a bit easier to look beyond the style and find the other pieces yearning to be discovered therein. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Only God Forgives features high quality video and audio. A nice array of bonus content is included. Highly recommended.
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Only God Forgives Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Only God Forgives - October 21, 2013
Blu-ray.com, Anchor Bay Home Entertainment and RADiUS-TWC are offering three members the opportunity to win a copy of acclaimed Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vithaya Pansringarm. The crime ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: October 22-29 - October 19, 2013
For the week of October 22nd, Sony Home Entertainment is bringing Before Midnight to Blu-ray. Other titles include Warner and New Line's The Conjuring, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive follow-up Only God Forgives, the coming-of-age dramedy The Way Way Back, Lewis Allen's ...
• Only God Forgives Blu-ray - August 26, 2013
Anchor Bay Home Entertainment and RADiUS-TWC will bring to Blu-ray acclaimed Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn's crime thriller Only God Forgives (2013), starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Vithaya Pansringarm. The release will be available for ...
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