Only God Forgives (UK - BD RB)
Marcus revisits Thailand to catch up with Ryan Gosling getting his face smashed
Julian (Ryan Gosling) runs a boxing club as a front for a drugs operation in Thailand. After Julian’s brother rapes and kills a 16 year old prostitute and is killed himself, the boys mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives in Bangkok to collect her son’s body. Finding out a local police Lieutenant was involved in the killing, Crystal wants revenge but after a botched attempt on the Lieutenant’s life, the circle retaliation continues until Julian has no choice but to get involved.
Only God Forgives is a brutal, sinister, dark and broody film from writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn, who has once again teamed up with Ryan Gosling after their success with surprise hit Drive. This takes the stark, minimal dialogue, pretty good looks of Winding Refn’s films up a notch and Only God Forgives falls into a distinct arty feeling brutal revenge thriller that plays by its own rules and its often strange visuals leads to some uneasy feeling throughout.
The film is fairly cold, with Gosling the only character who’s emotions seem to be ready to spew out of him as he studies events around him. There’s turmoil in him and an obvious dark background to the character (thanks largely to his crazy mum played maniacally by Kristin Scott Thomas). Ever beat of the sinister undertone here is felt thanks to slow unravelling of each set piece and even with very little dialogue all of the actors convey exactly what’s going on with them thanks to Winding Refn’s extremely good eye for letting his actors stillness tell his story.
The crisp gorgeous visuals are brought to dazzling life with the incredible lighting. The striking, almost neon glows of the red and golden world here thrives in 1080p. Everything looks incredibly vibrant and despite the super intense colours, skin tones still manage to appear natural and real world when they step out of the darkness.
The depth of the image is sometimes amazing with its get decorated Thai sets and well placed lighting. The framing of everything within doorways and corridors really makes for great imagery and two thirds of the film could probably be screen grabbed and used as a piece of art given the beautiful construction of each scene. The long corridors glow with cold clarity and the world here feels stark but beautiful. The handful of daytime scenes look incredibly natural and bright with detail leaping off the screen with sharp edges. Throughout black levels are nice and deep, though suffer from the odd bit of digital noise but this is a minor occurrence in an otherwise amazing looking HD presentation.
The tonal driven score reaches strong peaks and the minimal dialogue is always clear and strong. The track is filled out with street ambience and weather changes but it’s a generally subdued quiet affair that relies on making you uncomfortable with its moody score and cold controlled visuals.
The track is understated but impressive and it gets everything very right as it becomes the main element that drives the dark story onward.
The commentary with Nicholas Winding Refn is a very in depth study of the directors work here. He’s questioned very well and his intelligent, thoughtful answers deliver a view of a very driven director whose visual skills seem to flow out of his very well indeed. This is a great track and compliments the film extremely well.
The ‘Behind the Scenes’ (12:46 HD) featurette is a fantastic look at the making of the film and its actually quite a lot of fun with Gosling and his director. Seeing Nicholas Winding Refn work is great and his explanations of his vision to his crew is fantastic stuff that seems surprisingly clear and confident in a scene’s creation.
Next up is a batch of promotion bits. Trailer 1, Trailer 2, Theatrical Film Concepts for the posters, an Allcity Media Limited Edition Poster design and an bunch of poster designs for the Little White Lies Magazine Artwork Competition.
Only God Forgives, like Drive will not be for everyone but I found myself drawn into its world and appreciated the minimalist approach to the dialogue crossed with the fairly arthouse style visuals. All of the performances were great, though I wouldn't say any were stellar. It's Nicholas Winding Refn’s visual skills that are very much the star here and it makes for one hell of a pretty looking film. As for the rest of the disc, the audio track is equally as strong as the visuals and while the extras are thin, the great commentary track and behind the scenes featurette is probably all you really need to be happy with this package as a hole.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 2nd December 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Commentary, Behind the Scenes, Promotional Galleries
Easter Egg: No
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Ratha Phongam, Gordon Brown, Tom Burke
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 90 minutes
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