If you have seen any Nicolas Winding Refn movie, you know that he approaches things from a very artsy/Indie kind of way. Slow stories, strong characters, odd pacing. It's always an interesting ride (Drive is still my favorite so pun is slightly intended) and that's why I sat down and watched Only God Forgives.
OGF tells the story of Julian and his quest for vengeance (and the acceptance of his mother) after his brother Billy is killed. Only it turns out that Billy was not a very good man and that his murder came as a result of that (even though the means in which it happened were still murder). Which is when Julian's mother arrives and demands those responsible for her favorite son's death (and yes, she makes it very clear to Julian and us that Billy will always be the better son/man). Problem is that the man "responsible" is a retired cop who maintains order in his streets (think of him as a Punisher-like character, killing the evil and getting vengeance to balance everything back). What follows is ninety minutes of some of the most violent awesomeness that I've seen in a while.
There is very little dialogue in this movie (Ryan Gosling is the lead Julian and he only has 22 lines the entire movie. And yes I had to look that up) which does make for a very slow feeling movie but I don't see that as a bad thing for a movie, especially one like that that had so much character and many intense moments to help the pacing. Refn has said that the idea for this movie came after the birth of his daughter and he thought about having a fight with God (which is kinds strange). In such, it makes sense that the cop represents God and is making order from the chaos of man. However, I actually saw this as more of a devil character. Both he and Julian's mother were bad people (though the mother was easily the worse making a fair argument for a God/Devil relationship) and both were fighting for the choice that Julian would make from the death of his brother. Julian is a character that is on the run from America for killing a man. While in Bangkok (did I mention it's in Bangkok?), he lives in a place covered in red lighting and to me, that felt like Julian was in Hell and the cop and his mother were both wanting his lost soul. However, that fact that these arguments could both be made only makes me like the movie more.
It's safe to call this an artsy movie and it's very safe to say that it's not a movie for everyone. Refn makes odd choices with his movies but for me, they've always paid off in the end. I leave thinking about character meanings and story purpose and definitely in a good way. If you can get copy to watch (or rent it off itunes) and you dug something like Drive, check out this movie. It's worth a try.