Nicolas Winding Refn is best known for his 2011 film Drive, which earned him a cult-like following among audiences that were entranced by the film’s stunning visuals and mesmerized by Cliff Martinez’s masterful, synthpop soundtrack. Only God Forgives seems to be heading down a divergent path; while Drive won Best Director at Cannes in 2011, Only God Forgives was booed at its Riviera premiere Wednesday.
The components of Refn and Gosling’s film-reunion seem promising when considered individually: a tumultuous mother-son relationship in which the latter runs a kickboxing arena that serves as a front for the former’s drug-smuggling business, a family murder that sparks a desire for vengeance, and a villain that enjoys singing karaoke and sticking ice picks into his victims. It has also been said that the film visibly pays tribute to various directing legends, ranging from Sergio Leone to David Lynch.
Yet, according to reactions at Cannes, the auspicious characteristics of these elements do not come to fruition within the finished product. Only God Forgive’s characters are said to be flat, sometimes seeming like models within the film rather than actors, and the violence so histrionic that it is neither cathartic nor fulfilling, but instead revolting. While the movie may not be faring well among critics, the promise of a positive reaction from fans remains, begging the question of whether or not Refn and Gosling’s supporters will forgive the film for its unenthusiastic critical reviews.
Only God Forgives is set to release in the U.S. on July 19th.