ONLY GOD FORGIVES will be the third Drafthouse Recommends title. With Drafthouse Recommends we aim to highlight groundbreaking, innovative, and provocative films that push the boundaries of genre, represent enigmatic subjects or highlight emerging new talent. We believe these titles deserve to be seen by as many people as possible.
There will be an advanced screening of ONLY GOD FORGIVES with composer Cliff Martinez and director Nicolas Winding Refn in attendance at Slaughter Lane on 6/19. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!
"We must not forget that the second enemy of creativity, after having ‘good taste', is being safe." - Nicolas Wending Refn, official director's statement for ONLY GOD FORGIVES.
I love a controversial movie. ONLY GOD FORGIVES is most certainly that. Refn can rest assured; he was not "safe." He never is. From PUSHER to BRONSON to VALHALLA RISING to DRIVE and now ONLY GOD FORGIVES, Nicholas Winding Refn has proven time and time again to be one of the most fascinating and talented filmmakers working today. He also keeps audiences on their toes, never satisfied to deliver merely a formulaic copy of his previous work.
At Cannes ONLY GOD FORGIVES was met with simultaneous boos and standing ovations. I've had many a conversation about the film after that screening with people who hated it, people who loved it and some who only liked it after a second viewing. I was so intrigued by the film that I watched it twice. I really enjoyed it on first viewing and liked it even more the second time around. During my first viewing, I was constantly acclimating, and on-the-fly shifting, my preconceived notions of what this movie was going to be.
I think most people walked into ONLY GOD FORGIVES expecting DRIVE 2: THAILAND ADRENALINE with a towering performance by Refn's muse Ryan Gosling. There are plenty of heart-pounding moments and riveting action scenes in the film (my favorite being a frontal-assault on a restaurant patio), but this is not anything like DRIVE. Large swaths of the film are deliberately slowed to a hypnotic, meditative pace. Remember, Refn is the mad genius who previously brought us the slowest and most contemplative brutal viking saga ever filmed: The underrated, underseen VALHALLA RISING, which has many structural and tonal similarities to ONLY GOD FORGIVES.
You should know going into ONLY GOD FORGIVES that Ryan Gosling is not the star performance of this film. Refn casts Ryan Gosling as Julian; a neutered, insecure lamb (albeit a pretty ripped one). A searching, silent, emotionally-damaged character, Julian has clearly suffered adolescent emotional trauma at the hands of his hyper-dysfunctional mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas). Hard-boiled and sailor-mouthed, she commands all the eyeballs in the cinema to cower in her presence and doesn't relinquish power until her final bow.
The last central force in this classical tragedy lies in Thai uber-policeman Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm). Seemingly above both petty emotions and the law, Chang drifts silently throughout the film, rendering quick and sometimes lethal judgement on anyone and everyone who has strayed from the righteous path.
You may love ONLY GOD FORGIVES, you may hate it. Regardless, you really have to see it. Refn, whom I consider to be one of the most important directors working today, has painted an incredible hyper-stylish visual world dripping with sweat, neon and blood. Upon that backdrop is set a heroic tale of redemption, honor, purpose and fate. - Tim League, founder Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Fantastic Fest