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Only God Forgives Review Critics


Dave White Profile

The Red and The Black Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 2.0

    out of 100

    Generally unfavorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 0

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    This is the worst, least, dumbest picture made by people of talent this year.

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  • 20

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Only God Forgives would seem to be a parody of something or other — "Blue Velvet"? "Last Year At Marienbad"? — except that the film takes itself seriously to the point of suffocation in telling its lurid tale of slaughter and revenge.

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  • 30

    out of 100

    Variety Peter Debruge

    The wallpaper emotes more than Ryan Gosling does in Only God Forgives, an exercise in supreme style and minimal substance.

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  • 30

    out of 100

    Time Richard Corliss

    The collision of violent spasms and art-film ennui leave the viewer’s brain bloody but unfilled.

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  • 38

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    God may forgive you for seeing this needlessly brutal film. But you won't forgive yourself.

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  • 40

    out of 100

    The New Yorker Anthony Lane

    However mystifying, or downright boring, you find the result, rest assured that the Refn faithful will swoon. Peace be with them.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter David Rooney

    Only God Forgives is a hypnotic fugue on themes of violence and retribution, drenched in corrosive reds.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Richard Roeper

    This is one of the most shocking and one of the best movies of the year.

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  • See all Only God Forgives reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

not for kids

Envelope-pushing revenge drama is ultraviolent (and slow).

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Only God Forgives is an extremely violent drama from Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn. Like 2011's Drive, Refn's latest movie stars Ryan Gosling as a tortured man and features scenes of unflinching violence. The brutality can be startling and includes several moments of vengeance and torture. Men use knives, swords, guns, and their fists to injure, maim, and kill. A client brutally kills a young prostitute, and another man pays a prostitute to pleasure herself while his arms are bound. The language is strong, particularly from Kristin Scott Thomas' character, a grieving (and vengeful) mother who likes to say "f--k," "c--t," "bitch," and much more.

  • Families can talk about the amount of violence in Only God Forgives. What's the impact of the bloody, close-up scenes, especially compared to the more popular style of loud, stylized, but not necessarily realistic action violence?
  • Refn has been criticized for his depiction of women. How do the female characters here compare to the ones in Drive? Are any of the women believable?
  • Talk about how violence begets more violence. Did anyone learn any valuable lessons? What is the filmmaker trying to say about revenge and forgiveness?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: When seen as a cautionary tale, the movie's message is that violence only begets more violence, and vengeance can ultimately lead to your own destruction. Julian's unwillingness to kill an innocent child proves that even the darkest hearts can exhibit moral behavior.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Despite his propensity for killing and torturing criminals, Chang loves his daughter and is trying to rid the streets of rapists and murderers. Julian is willing to seek revenge for his brother's death, but he's also willing to let people go once he realizes the circumstances of his brother's murder.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: This is a remarkably violent film, with scenes often showing the violence in close-up. In addition to shootings, characters are also killed via swords, knives, hairpins, and other sharp objects. The first two murders consist of a man killing a prostitute and then her father being allowed to bash in the killer's head (the dead man's half-missing face is shown). There are scenes of bloody killings, eviscerations, and torture. Chang chops off hands and ears; stabs hands, thighs, and ears; and slices throats and guts. Paid assassins fire a machine gun on a restaurant, killing more innocent bystanders than their intended targets. There's also a bloody boxing scene.

  • sex false4

    Sex: A man goes into a brothel and asks for a 14-year-old prostitute, but the owner declines. He later finds a young-looking streetwalker and goes up a room with her. Julian pays a prostitute to masturbate in front of him after she ties his hands to a chair. A mother talks about the fact that her older son had "a bigger c--k" than her younger son. Thai go-go dancers and sex workers are shown trying to attract clients.

  • language false4

    Language: Lots of cursing, including "f--k," "motherf--ker," "a--hole," "c--t," "bitch," "yellow n----r," "c--k," and more.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adult characters smoke cigarettes, and Julian's mother admits that her family deals drugs, mostly heroin and cocaine.