Set in a neon-drenched Bangkok, the film follows the drug-smuggling Julian (Gosling), whose unhinged mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) convinces him to avenge the murder of his brother. (A plot which Gosling told MTV News reminded him of a certain video game.)
Yet, while "Drive" sped into critical-darling territory following its debut at the Cannes International Film Festival, "Only God Forgives" seems to be stalled at the start. Check out what the critics have to say.
" 'Only God Forgives' doesn't have a script so much as a body count. Its characters, even the one played by Gosling (his name is Julian), don't pretend to be more than one-note abstractions. Julian's brother kills a teenage prostitute, and is then murdered for the crime, at which point his dragon-lady mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), shows up. The seedy, neon-lit Bangkok streets are depicted as a place of depravity and no mercy but also martinet control, in which Chang must restore order by taking vengeance on Crystal's war of vengeance." — Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
The "Drive" Comparisons
"The last time the Danish director manned the wheel of a Ryan Gosling vehicle, the result was a near-masterpiece of genre hybridization. So it's more than a little disappointing to report that 'Only God Forgives,' the pair's second collaboration, is no 'Drive.' In fact, it sometimes plays like a grotesque parody of that 2011 triumph, with Refn amping up the limb-slashing, head-bashing savagery and filtering out all traces of doomed-romantic grandeur. The results are sometimes striking, in pure visual terms, but rarely engaging; even as a brutish saga of underworld retribution, the film fails to get the heart pounding." — A.A. Dowd, A.V. Club
Silent Ryan Gosling
"Gosling's ability to riff on the exalting of the male body has been reduced to prosaic stares and barely the semblance of personality ... This isn't a bad performance; it's not even acting in the traditional sense. Gosling has been downgraded to a prop." — Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Kristin Scott Thomas
"But the movie's real saving grace can be summed up in three words: Kristin Scott Thomas. You may know her as regal and graceful and British (or sometimes French), but here, she is American, garish, profane, and very, very nasty. It's delicious to see this wonderful actress sink her teeth into something so off-type." — Jocelyn Noveck, Associated Press
The Last Word
"The Danish filmmaker's latest theater of the macabre is brutal, bloody, saturated with revenge, sex and death, yet stunningly devoid of meaning, purpose, emotion or decent lighting. Seriously. Artful shadows can certainly set a mood; too many and it merely looks like someone is trying too hard. That sense of overreach haunts 'Only God Forgives.' " — Betsy Sharkey, L.A. Times
Check out everything we've got on "Only God Forgives."