Only God Forgives is mostly a series of tableaux doused in the colors of Bangkok’s seedy underworld. Its visual style turns what should have been dirty sleazy settings into beautiful dream-like set pieces, creating an entirely different world that has its own rules upheld by infallible judgment.
The photography, cinematography, and soundtrack are all on point, but its vivid compositions don’t deliver anything as profound as it looks nor something to connect with.
The cast manages to make do of what little they were given, but their characters are unrelatable. They’re either impassive, crude, or drift from one scene to another barely making a sound.
The movie fails to resonate and appalls when it finally unfolds. In one scene, the film takes Julian (Gosling) and his mother’s relationship literally. The ending, which is the culmination of the movie and his redemption, looks cheesy.
Only God Forgives is the high art pretentious cousin of Drive, devoid of a narrative and characterization. Both movies moved slow and steady, punctuated by violence that comes out of nowhere, and highlighted by an apt soundtrack.
The major difference is while Drive manages to make you feel for a lone drifter who finally finds a chance for permanence but had to give it up, Only God Forgives delivers a stylized but dull redemption of a character that you don’t care about. The karaoke scenes are funny though.