Nicolas Winding Refn’s hotly anticipated follow up to his commercially successful Drive is anything but. The Danish filmmaker may envelope audiences within a similar hyper-stylised world of neon-noir, but where Drive remains grounded (comparatively at least) Only God Forgives is unmercifully excessive, extremely challenging and deeply disturbing. But, despite everything it does to distance the viewer, it remains strangely compelling.
Refn elevates a simple tale of vengeance with metaphysical musings, artistic experimentation and juxtaposition between reality and nightmare. Larry Smith’s vibrant cinematography, the measured pace of Matthew Newman’s edit and Cliff Martinez’ ethereal electro-pop score combine to supply Refn’s provocative film with a dream-like atmosphere that leaves audiences questioning the veracity of everything they witness.
Refn’s ninth feature film is not the simple crime drama Drive-fans might have expected, but an elusive trip that forces you to look beyond the surface without offering any explicit meaning. From its presentation of intense hyper-violence to the ambiguity surrounding its characters and their motivations, Only God Forgives is entirely built on your individual interpretation.
To say you enjoy this film is to do it a disservice, because that’s not the director’s intention. Only God Forgives is a stylised experience devised to divide viewers and provoke reaction. Though many will be put off by Refn’s self indulgence, he still offers a visual feast for lovers of his neon-noir aesthetic. In many respects there’s something here for everyone, well everyone but the faint-hearted.