Only God Forgives is a French/ Danish crime thriller film that was released at the cinema on 2nd August 2013. The film has a run time of 90 minutes and is rated 18 due to language and violence.
Living in Bangkok, Julian is a successful drug smuggler in the criminal underworld. While respected he feels little inside. When his brother commits a terrible crime by raping and killing a teenage prostitute, his world changes dramatically. Retired policeman Chang is called to provide justice. Known as the Angel of Vengeance, he allows some terrible things to happen and Julian’s brother ends up dead. After learning of her son’s death, Julian’s criminal mother is determined to make people pay. As she arrives in Bangkok to collect her son’s body, she orders Julian to find and kill his murderer, causing him to question his family and himself.
Ryan Gosling as Julian
Kristin Scott Thomas as Crystal
Vithaya Pansringarm as Lt. Chang/ "The Angel of Vengeance
Rhatha Phongam as Mai
Gordon Brown as Gordon
Tom Burke as Billy
Byron Gibson as Byron
What I thought
As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I was extremely excited. It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ryan Gosling and I’ll generally watch anything he’s in but I thought the plot/ idea behind this one was really interesting and different.
Set in Bangkok (and actually filmed there) Julian is part of an underground drug smuggler who hides behind a boxing club business. His brother Billy is an extremely shady character and ends up raping and murdering a teenage prostitute and leaving a blood bath behind him. Crazy ex-cop Chang gets called to sort things out which results in Julian’s brother being murdered and his mother wanting the person who did it to die themselves. The whole plot is extremely seedy, dark and twisted but coming from the director of Drive, I wouldn’t expect anything less.
While an absolutely fantastic plot, there wasn’t really anything shocking about it. By that, I mean that there weren’t really any big surprises and I found it to be a bit predictable the whole way through. That being said, I didn’t mind this at all. The plot was still exciting, interesting and gripping even without the shocks being thrown in. Set in Bangkok’s criminal underworld, some things are never quite as they seem in this film and sometimes, more importantly, people aren’t quite who they seem to be either.
Due to the nature of the characters involved in this film, there is also something different going on and there are plenty of new people introduced throughout to help keep things interesting. Although a part of a drug smuggling business, Julian is not at all like his brother. Julian’s character is an interesting one mostly because he barely says anything throughout the film. There are no long conversations between him and other characters and never do we really get to hear his thoughts about what is going on. It is only when he mother arrives in town to pick up Billy’s body that we get to see more of who Julian really is. When his mother barks orders at Julian to murder the man responsible for Billy’s death, he’s clearly torn between family loyalties and his own idea of right and wrong. Unlike in other films where Gosling is known for using his body/ looks to please the audience, that isn’t the case here. Gosling’s performance, for me, was very understated and quiet but one that I will remember for a long time.
Other characters are just as good, if not better, for the most part. Playing the part of the Angel of Vengeance, ex-cop Chang is Vithaya Pansringarm. By looking at this guy, you would never expect him to do the things he does in this film. Although retired, Chang is a character that will go to any length to get justice or revenge. His character was extremely creepy and mixes torture techniques with strange karaoke scenes of him singing love songs. By looking at Chang you would expect a well-respected and quite ‘proper’ policeman but that is far from what you get. He doesn’t follow rules and he doesn’t care how he gets his results – he just gets them!
Julian’s mother is just as bad. Crystal is played by Kristin Scott Thomas and what a different role this is for her. If anyone thought they had a bad mother, they are sorely mistaken. Crystal is a bitch and a half and is very outspoken. As part of her own criminal business, she is used to having the final say and she works the same way with her sons. As soon as she arrives in Bangkok, Crystal is giving orders left, right and centre and expects things to be done immediately. I absolutely loved Kristin Scott Thomas in this role. Not only did she scare the hell out of me but she also made me very thankful for having such a lovely mum.
I had heard rumours about how gory/ sick this film was but I don’t think I was prepared for it at all. I don’t have a weak stomach and can generally sit through quite a lot but there were some scenes that I winced at. With the gore obviously comes a lot of violence. I can see people not wanting to sit and watch the whole thing after seeing some of the scenes involved. However, I do think that these scenes were extremely well done and they did fit in with the rest of the film really well. Also, I didn’t think they were too much even though some of the scenes were a little hard to watch at times.
Overall, I think people will either love this film or hate it. Personally, I loved it. Only God Forgives is stunning to watch while also making me look away at times. A must for Ryan Gosling fans with a strong stomach!