September 26, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Only God Forgives

By |2018-03-21T18:55:35+01:00June 6th, 2013|Reviews|


Date: 2013

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Tom Burke


oving through the underbelly of Thailand as predator and prey, adjudicator and avenger, the riveting trio of Julian (Ryan Gosling), Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), and Chan (Vithaya Pansringarm) keeps the suspense as sharp as the words (and swords) in writer-director Nicolas Winding Refn’s film about underworld disputes Bangkok-style, where justice is swift and personal.

Underworld figure Julian runs a local boxing club, but when his older brother Billy (Tom Burke) murders an underage prostitute someone has to pay — and it ends up being Billy. Enter their hellcat mother, Crystal, whose mothering skills range from “Manchurian Candidate” to “Pink Flamingoes.” Looking like Donatella Versace, she presides over a drug racket that’s scarier than the fashion industry. She seek vengeance and dismisses Billy’s crime with the quip “I’m sure he had his reasons.”

Dane Refn, who has described his story as a Far East Western, deftly plays off the physical presence of the three main characters as they draw closer to the core of corruption and revenge. Julian, aware of the horror of his brother’s crime, seeks no reprisals, but his mother’s arrival changes that. Police officer and nightclub singer Chan is a violent enforcer that not even master manipulator Crystal — destined for the Bad Mother Hall of Fame — can control.

Attempts to override corruption with humanity are crushed by the weight of what came before. Lighting adds drama to scenes that can quickly turn raw or cold. This is a compelling, deeply violent, and arduous journey to a place where forgiveness seems to have little place.

About the Author:

Judy Edelhoff launched and became producer of a series of prestigious lectures on history, politics, arts and culture televised nationally from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Previously worked in for the Folger Shakespeare Library. In Rome, she served as Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. Her interest in cuisine has included collaboration with Italian chefs and master chefs, including the prestigious French Laundry in Napa Valley. She is a native Floridian and later Washington, D.C. resident.