Positive/Negative: Divisive Reactions to Refn's 'Only God Forgives'

May 24, 2013

Only God Forgives

This past Wednesday morning at 8:30AM, Nicolas Winding Refn's ninth feature film, Only God Forgives, premiered inside the Grand Lumiere at the Cannes Film Festival to a crowd of critics and press from all over the world. The response 90 minutes later was instantly divisive, with reactions ranging from incredibly negative and "hated it" to overly positive and "loved it". While the majority of responses I saw seemed to lean towards the negative side, there's always something fun about emerging from a film that gets such split response. As long as there are people who did love it (like me!), there's something curious there to discuss.

Only God Forgives stars Ryan Gosling as an American living in Bangkok, Thailand who ends up in a brutally violent feud with Chang, a badass retired police officer who commands more respect than anyone in the entire country. While I've already written my own positive review and hundreds of other reviews have been published from Cannes, I wanted to collect a sample of both the positive and negative responses from twitter. There are plenty of reviews to read, but there's also something amusing and intriguing about seeing such polar opposite reactions, such vitriol and love, for the same film. Great films start discussions.

Up first, here are most of the positive reactions that were posted after the film premiered earlier this week:

Only God Forgives

As for the negative reactions, as many have no doubt heard, the film did get booed at Cannes (which isn't uncommon for films that critics dislike). However, I was there myself at the very first press screening. When it ended there was at first a pause of confusion in the audience, then some applause began and continued while the booing started up as well. It was a fair mix but the negative reactions have been strong online:

It's interesting to look back at the split in responses. While there are some elements of Only God Forgives that everyone seems to agree on (cinematography and score are great), its emptiness seems to be the big problem that many are lingering on. It's also not Drive, in any way, and can barely be compared to Drive beyond Ryan Gosling being in it and Refn's moody, atmospheric style. However, simply the fact this film is creating such divisive discussions and such strong opinions is actually good thing, it means it is having an effect, even if it's a bad one. Even if it's one that begins negative but becomes interesting with extra thought.

As we all know, everyone will eventually have the chance to see Only God Forgives and form their own opinion. It may be embraced much more by fans and regular moviegoers than critics in the end. I was at the world premiere of Drive in Cannes back in 2011 and that received more universal praise, but again, these are such different films but I'm intrigued to see how it plays outside of France. Only God Forgives (watch the trailer) is written & directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (of the Pusher Trilogy, Fear X, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Drive). It will be released in theaters on July 19th this summer. See for yourself if it's good or bad.

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Reader Feedback - 20 Comments


Damn, some people didn't like a movie and some other people did? Crazy stuff...

Nielsen700 on May 24, 2013


Refn's work is polarizing if nothing else. I am so psyched to see this. If it's like VALHALLA RISING, then I will sure love it.

DAVIDPD on May 24, 2013


Films are supposed to be polarizing. Look at Ironman 3. I fucking loved it while a lot of people hated it.

Xerxexx on May 24, 2013


I'm one of the people who totally hated Iron Man 3.

conradthegreat on May 24, 2013


Duly noted.

Wafffles on May 24, 2013


Hello. I loved it and look...we can be civilized...*loads shotgun*

Xerxexx on May 24, 2013


Many people, including some critics, are predisposed to dislike movies like this. Refn isn't making films for the sheep and I thank the gods for it.

racquetman on May 24, 2013


A bad film is a bad film.

mistermysteryguest on May 24, 2013


I wasn't aware that there was a consensus that this was a bad film. Did you read the article?

racquetman on May 24, 2013


I feel like I'm taking crazy pills with this guy, but I hated Drive, Valhalla Rising, and Bronson so I probably won't even watch this. I've given him an ample amount of chances, but he's definitely not for me. Glad some people like him, but I don't know why. His stories go no where, he can't develop characters, and he adds gratuitous violence in places that don't fit with the rest of the narrative. People compare him to Tarantino, but at least Tarantino is a good writer and knows how to form solid dialogue in addition to his over the top fight scenes.

Matt Peloquin on May 24, 2013


Yeah, he's a Van Gough in a Kinkade world.

DAVIDPD on May 24, 2013


I would say that Tarantino is too much talky and Refn is too little talky. Malick seems to think people don't have tongues, period.

racquetman on May 24, 2013



Mufasa on May 27, 2013


I definitely hated Drive.

mistermysteryguest on May 24, 2013


I'm hearing the best parts of this movie are the performances of K Scott Thomas and the Thailand crooked cop character, rest of the film is a violent mess from what I've been told..

jah p on May 24, 2013


OGF is a really strange, slow, mental movie. It's really not like Drive. It's a mix between Gaspar Noé's, David Lynch's and Refn's (duh!) movies. This film is like Enter the Void in a way, it is an experience. I'm glad movie like that are created. I understand why people hate it (slow, hyper violent, cryptic, no "story"). But i wanna watch different things at the movie, i wanna be surprise and shocked. And this movie does the job well.

Bob on May 25, 2013


Hold up... look at the pictures of the people who loved it vs. the pictures of people who hated it... artsy divide?

lewinston on May 25, 2013


nly god forgive is an useful film with high rate from the audiences

Y8 on May 26, 2013


look at the pictures of the people who loved it vs. the pictures of people who hated a movie and some other people did? Crazy stuff...

minecraft on Jun 7, 2013



ryditya909 on Jul 31, 2013

Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.




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