Refn and Gosling’s new flick got booed at Cannes. Let’s see how the screenplay fared.

Genre: Drama
Premise: A British man living in Bangkok goes after the man responsible for killing his brother.
About: This is the reteaming effort of Nicolas Winding Refn and Ryan Gosling, who of course worked together on Drive. The big difference here is that Refn also wrote the script. The film just debuted at Cannes, where the crowd heavily booed it during the credits. Refn responded by saying that good films divide and challenge audiences, so he was okay with the booing. Either way, I wanted to read this screenplay.
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
Details: 97 pages – 2nd draft

Only-God-Forgives1

I’m not totally sure what to make of Nicolas Winding Refn yet. I loved the original Drive script, but he totally gutted it. Yet somehow the gutted version was just as good if not better than the original version. When I listen to his interviews, he sounds equal parts humble and full of himself. There are records of him breaking down and crying in cars in order to find the truth to his movies. Speaking to some people in the industry who have worked with him, he’s been described as an egomaniac crazy person on par with Amanda Bynes.

I guess none of that really matters though. What matters is the end product. And according to the French, the end product was pretty bad. And 999,999 times out of a million, you can trace back what’s wrong with a movie to the script. So I busted open Only God Forgives and started reading. I don’t know if I’d call this story boo-worthy so much as bore-worthy. It’s just not a very interesting narrative. I get the feeling Refn wanted to explore the depravity and dark alleys of Bangkok, and maybe focused more on that then actually writing a good script. Let’s take a look.

Only God Forgives follows 30-something Julian, a Brit (I’m assuming) living in Bangkok as (I think) a bookie for underground fights. The gist is, he lives a shady life. But not as shady as his brother Billy, who’s pretty much doing the same thing without the work ethic. After a fight, Billy goes out into the city, finds an underage hooker, has sex with her, then beats her and kills her. Oh yeah, this movie is not for the faint of heart.

In comes lead detective Chang, who carries with him an almost otherworldly presence. Chang finds the dead hooker’s father, yells at him for allowing this to happen, then tells him to go kill Billy. So the father walks in and beats Billy to a pulp, killing him. Yes, lots of killing in this movie. The detective then chops off the father’s arm for being a bad father.

Julian eventually finds out his brother was killed and goes after the killer, in this case the father, but when he finds him, he can’t seem to kill him. Eventually, Julian’s mother shows up, who throws the word “cunt” around like you and I do “screenplay.” She wants revenge on this father, so she puts a hit out on him.

Eventually, they learn that the father wasn’t really the bad guy here – it was Chang, who’s rumored in these parts to be the “Angel of Vengeance,” the man responsible for instituting karma (or something like that). For whatever reason, this title seems to affect Julian, who wants to fight Chang, as both of them were former fighters. Julian’s mother asks, as do we, “What the fuck do you think that will accomplish?” and Julian answers something to the effect of, “you wouldn’t understand,” which we, of course, do not either.

This eventually results in more violence, as at one point Julian blows Chang’s wife’s head off at point-blank range. I’m beginning to understand why this movie was booed. It’s violence on top of violence on top of depravity on top of depravity for no apparent reason. I mean, if the story dictates that violence and depravity need to happen, it works. But when there’s no story, it seems like you’re just exploiting it and that’s the quickest way to have an audience turn on you.

I always come back to the story. What’s the goal here? What are the stakes? Where’s the urgency? Only God Forgives has a goal, but it’s a flawed one. It’s for Julian to find out who killed his brother and get revenge. Here’s the problem though. The brother had sex with an underage hooker then beat her to death. Ummmm, why would we want to see a person like that avenged? We, of course, do not. So the story is flawed from the get-go.

Then the story shifts to this weird undefined showdown between Julian and Chang. I never quite understood it, but Chang is apparently this Angel of Vengeance, which is supposed to mean something, but I’m not really sure what. And I didn’t understand what Julian received by fighting him. At a certain point, even Julian realizes his brother is a low-life, so I don’t get why he’s even trying to avenge him anymore.

To make things even more bizarre, a quarter of the movie is dedicated to Chang singing Johnny Cash at a karaoke bar. It’s just all so strange. Here is this ruthless Angel of Vengenace who chops people’s limbs off, and he’s obsessed with karaoke. Sometimes that contrast can be cool, but here it just felt random, probably because the rest of the script felt random as well.

On top of all this violence and revenge, there are just a lot of bad people in this movie. The mother, in particular, is a really nasty person. When Julian tries to introduce his new girlfriend, she continually calls her a cunt and a prostitute. It’s just this constant barrage of humanity at its worst, and I’m not sure people want to watch that.

I remember writing a script a long time ago, and something about it wasn’t clicking and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I eventually realized that there was no hope in the script. Every character was evil. And if you don’t have some sense of hope, it’s hard to get on board. I mean, does an audience or reader want to be beat over the head with the message, “Everyone is terrible. Life is a meaningless exercise of human beings at their worst”? I don’t think so.  Julian is our best shot at a “likable” character, but even he’s banging young hookers and blowing wives’ heads off. I’m all for the anti-hero, but at some point, you’ve gone too far.

If I were giving Refn notes, which I’m sure he’s glad I’m not – but if I were, I would’ve changed Billy from a brother who beats the hell out of underage hookers to a sister or a girlfriend. Now we have an innocent sister killed instead of a deadbeat brother. Already we’re waaaaaay more interested in Julian getting revenge. Sure, it’s more traditional, but I’ll take a traditional storyline that works over an non-traditional one that doesn’t any day.

Refn seems to want to settle this score in the ring, and as it stands, I didn’t even know Julian used to be a former fighter or that Chang had been as well, so when they decided to settle things with a fight, I was confused. So change Chang from a cop into a fighter. He’s an underground kingpin with several layers of security, and therefore Julian knows the only chance he’s got at killing this guy is in the ring. So he’s got to fight his way up the ladder to get a shot at him. I know, I know. This is starting to sound like a Bloodsport sequel, so maybe you tweak a few things here and there to keep the story fresh. But if Refn wants these guys to fight in a ring, that scenario makes a lot more sense than a guy we don’t even know is a fighter fighting a cop in the ring one night. Plot points kinda need to make sense.

In the end, this is just a really ugly look at a bunch of ugly people. And maybe that’s what Refn wanted. He is where he is because he takes chances and he does things differently. But he may have gone too far in this case. Drive was a good story with a set of clear goals and motivations for everyone involved. I didn’t see that here. This was a mess from the get-go.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: When you’re writing about a revenge or a kidnapping, pay close attention to who’s being killed or kidnapped. If this person is unlikable, cruel, a blowhard, a murderer, we won’t want to see them avenged. But if they’re helpless, innocent, and good, we most certainly will. Hence why it’s almost always a better choice to go with a woman/girl/child getting killed than a man. And why it’s a nice idea to make them a good person. Only God Forgives really could have used that.

  • Nickmistro

    Solid, valid points. I opened this up and lost interest within 30 pages.

    I hate to say it, but I think Refn is a fluke. I absolutely loved Drive, but Pusher was just what you said– awful people doing awful things, absolutely no redemption in it. then I tried to watch Valhala Rising or whatever and found it to be just crude death with over-the-top, unnecessary violence one after the next.

    I remember seeing a brief interview of Refn, and in about three seconds, I remember thinking that he’s so stoked on Refn that he probably wanks off to his own interviews with the Drive soundtrack playing in the background. He was all “I make movies that penetrate oohhh yahh I penetrate you oohhh ahh with my art in your brain ohhh thrusting ahhh”

    Hell, his response to how this movie fared at cannes was hilarious too (verbatim):
    You know, great art — horrible thing to say — but art is meant to divide, because if it doesn’t divide, it doesn’t penetrate, and if it doesn’t penetrate, you just consume it.

    • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

      Aha ! I didn’t connect ‘Drive’ and this with ‘Valhalla Rising’.

      I enjoyed ‘Valhalla Rising’.* It too was very violent, but I think for some reason that ‘period’ movies set in certain eras give us level of distance that make them seem somehow less ‘offensive’ to our sensibilities (think of the gory battles in Braveheart – pretty intense for what went on to be a multiple Oscar winner). Overall, the general levels of weirdness seemed to ‘work’ in a period movie with characters concerned with early Christianity, paganism and an early encounter with the New World.

      *Got speaking to one of the cast (Jamie Sives) and he said it was a nightmare shoot – not because of the director I hasten to add, but because they were filming in the North of Scotland during the ‘midge’ season and the little buggers were eating them alive all day. He told me to watch it again and look for signs of them all twitching because they could barely control themselves during the takes.

      • Nickmistro

        I agree with you there, I think the violence was much more appropriate considering the time period in Valahala, but I harp on the fact that a lot of the violence didn’t build towards anything.
        I’m all for violent movie as long as it’s used well and constructively, not just put in for the sake of something visceral. We can get that in the first scene, no need to reiterate that in varying degrees for the whole movie.
        Funny thought with the bugs, yeah that’d be a tough shoot– cold, mud, and bugs

  • http://twitter.com/kinnygraham Graham

    From the reviews I’ve read of the movie, the violence is depicted in a pretty full on and graphic fashion as well (I guess that means like the elevator scene in ‘Drive’, AFTER the kiss). So not only is the script already heavily violent, that violence is depicted unsparingly.

    That must make for some pretty tough viewing all-in-all….

  • martin_basrawy

    The script review sounds bad, but I’m still interested in watching this movie.

  • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

    Refn sounds like Tommy Wiseau when you hear him talk.

    Just sayin’.

  • cjob3

    That sounded like it was gonna be a What the hell did I just read?

  • IgorWasTaken

    Carson wrote: “Now [if] we have an innocent sister killed instead of a deadbeat brother[,] [a]lready we’re waaaaaay more interested in Julian getting revenge. Sure, it’s more traditional, but I’ll take a traditional storyline that works over an non-traditional one that doesn’t any day.

    Yeh. But isn’t that the challenge? To make the non-traditional choice and then make that work?

    And the challenge for the reviewer, perhaps, is to offer how it might work despite the fact that revenge is being sought for an unlikeable person.

    • Steve

      So, Igor, you tell us.

      How do you make it work? How do you make the audience root for revenge on a lowlife scumbag?

      The idea that it’s the reviewer’s responsibility to make the writer’s bad choices work is idiotic.

      Much better for a reviewer to say, it simply doesn’t work, try this instead.

      Your assignment for tomorrow, Igor, is to make a decapitated giraffe funny.

      • IgorWasTaken

        For starters, I don’t have the script.

        In any event, I’ve been around here for a while and I was attempting to goad Carson a bit.

        But if you want to see how “a lowlife scumbag” can be made sympathetic, look at “In Bruges”. An amazing script.

        Apart from that, this site isn’t really about movie/script reviews. Carson analyzes and deconstructs scripts in order to help people learn and to encourage them/us to write better scripts.

        It this were merely a script/movie review site, I wouldn’t have posted the comments that I did. But since it isn’t merely a script/movie review site, I stand by what I posted.

        Have a nice day.

    • tom8883

      Depends on whether you just wanna make money or you want to put the effort in for a good story and dollars.

  • Marija ZombiGirl

    Well, this is Cannes we’re talking about… THE place to be, THE place to party, THE place to advertise, THE place to do anything but actually like movies. Not many people here in France respect that film festival anymore.

    Also, what’s up with booing a movie ? That is so disrespectful. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, it’s simple : get up and leave. Don’t wait until the end credits to stand up and boo at an empty screen like some deranged owl.

    People wanted to see DRIVE 2, they didn’t want to see such a personal movie. I like Refn (a fellow Viking, yay !) but I also get why people think his work is very pretentious and only for himself, not for the audience. Some of his work is almost airtight so if you’re not caught up in it right away, you’re left standing there.

    I don’t know yet how I feel about ONLY GOD FORGIVES. I already read the script a while back and found it very empty. The ideas were there but I didn’t think they were particularly well developed in the movie. Sure, it looks good but that’s not enough, is it ?

  • ripleyy

    I read somewhere that Refn says violent images, in better words, arouses him big time.

    So, there you have it. Refn gets off on violence and, in the same article, he said he filmed “Only God Forgives” like “a pornographer”, so, there you have it again.

    I’m off to watch something cheerful.

  • wlubake

    Sounds like a good comparison is I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. In that Rhys Meyers was kinda wild (not the defenseless sister), but immensely likeable. Plus his death was so brutal (once you learn what happened). That was a pretty flawed movie, but at least you wanted to see the revenge exacted.

  • Lisa Aldin

    “Hence why it’s almost always a better choice to go with a woman/girl/child getting killed than a man.”

    I disagree with this. Enough women and children characters are killed in movies for just this reason and they serve no other purpose other than to gain sympathy for the protagonist. They are barely people. They are cardboard. That’s just not good enough and it’s lazy.

    • ArabyChic

      I agree completely. Also, I think the purpose of this is to show someone FORCED into an act of revenge. I’m not defending the film – I haven’t even read the script, and to be honest, I’m not a fan of Drive either – but it seems like you’ve missed the point on this one. He’s not taking revenge out of love or pain. I think it’s an interesting twist on a revenge film.

    • Carson D

      This goes back to evolutionary psychology — sperm are disposable, eggs are prized. We laugh when a man slips on a banana peel, but rush to help when a woman does. Breast cancer causes football players to wear pink and donate money, but prostate and testicular cancers are the butt of jokes. Female rapes cause mass protests, male rapes are humorous news articles. Missing little girls are national tragedies, missing little boys are afterthoughts statistics.

      This is just the way human are at our psychological core. The stakes are always raised when the victim is of the female sex. Get used to it.

      • Lisa Aldin

        This is exactly why we need more women writing screenplays. I get what you’re saying, I do, but I think your view of the world, which I’m not saying is inaccurate at all, has been represented often in all forms of media. You pointed that out, in fact. I’d rather not get used to it. I’d rather try to change it and offer a new point of view. As a writer, don’t you think that’s an amazing opportunity? Sure, we love to tell good stories. But our stories have the potential to do more. They have the potential to change the way someone looks at the world. That’s pretty awesome.

        What’s wrong with taking a new look at things? Offering a different story? There’s room for all, I think.

        All I’m saying is that a woman can be more than just the victim in a movie. Men can be victims too. We don’t need to automatically default to “kill the woman or kid” to gain sympathy. Let’s just write our characters as people first and go from there. Let’s push ourselves as writers. Let’s be creative. Go for the change. The new angle. Because I’m tired of getting used to the way things are or have been in the past. Let’s move forward.

        • tom8883

          Movies have to tell every kind of story, and in some stories characters have sex with hookers, kill them, get killed themselves, and have their brothers avenge their death.

          Here’s the thing. Life is like that. We can write stories that have a nice clean good versus evil type of justice where good wins. That’s fine. We want justice to prevail in life and so its normal for us to try and make life more like that through the influence of the movies we make.

          And yes, of course we want to give people what they want. It’s obvious that since we want justice to prevail in life that movies like this will make more money because more people will like them. That’s the general idea.

          But it’s not as simple as that. What we give them also reinforces what they want. It’s a complicated interaction, yes, but Hollywood is responsible for society because it influences society through the movies they make. And that doesn’t mean that Hollywood
          has to start making “boring arthouse movies”. It just means that people can be entertained and think at the same time.

          We can kill two birds with one stone. We can have our cake and eat it too. The trick is to make movies which depict these things we don’t like but in some way that we actually get satisfaction from what we’re seeing. Maybe the viewers at Cannes didn’t like the
          way what they were watching made them feel. But at least it made them feel.

          I don’t know about the movie, as I haven’t seen it. But I liked the script. I am curious to know if there really is no sense of hope that comes through in this movie. I don’t believe it because Drive had all kinds of hope–at the subtextual level. Which is the best kind because then it’s real. If hope is flowing over the edges of a movie then it’s just a commercial. Hope has to be squeezed out
          of struggle. We all know this because we’ve experienced it. So—-

          When the son of a female London Crime boss is murdered in Bangkok by a Thai cowboy vigilante, his mom and his brother set out to get revenge.

          For me, the value of Drive was its ability to communicate emotionally. I was looking for that emotional connection in this script. I can immediately see Ryan Gosling as Julian, the introspective, tight-lipped drug-taking Thai kickboxing afficianando and son to a mother who also happens to be a London crime boss.

          If you thought Drive was violent this one has upped the ante. And it moves much faster than the Drive script we read. Even with all the directing that is written into the script. If only God forgives, then there better be conflict coming from every angle. And it just so happens that this script has conflict coming from every angle.

          It’s a damned good first 20 pages. The dynamic that is drawn between Julian and Chang before they even meet is really great. And the second act doesn’t get boring at all.

          The script uses sounds and senses well to pull us in, although I would like a better description of Bangkok—the real Bankgok. There’s smells and sights and all kinds of stuff that I think needs to be described. Like how you have to watch what you eat or you’ll be shitting diarrhea for weeks. There are prostitutes, sure, but what about the ping pong girls? We need more detail. I want to see the roosters in the streets waking people up at the break of dawn. And if it could be done in such a way to affect the plot through and character motivations, then even better.

          I want to know what the soundtrack is like. Anyone know? I felt like it should be country music. Strange, I know, as it takes place in Bangkok.. nevertheless, it would give us a new way of looking at things . . . .

          Anyway, I really like how Refn is able to do great emotional characters and violent action. It does not have a typical ending and I’m still unsure of what I think of it. My feeling is that not too many people could pull off this kind of an ending. I thought that with Refn’s ability and style, the ending could pack a real emotional punch and make this one hell of a movie. But I don’t know why the audience at Cannes was booing. Does anyone know? Is it because it wasn’t a good movie or just because they didn’t like how it made them feel?

          BTW, anyone who has been to Asia will understand the Karaoke bit.

          “I would’ve changed Billy from a brother who beats the hell out of underage hookers to a sister or a girlfriend. Now we have an innocent sister killed instead of a deadbeat brother. Already we’re waaaaaay more interested in Julian getting revenge. Sure, it’s more traditional, but I’ll take a traditional storyline that works over an non-traditional one that doesn’t any day.”

          Then you’d have to change the whole movie because the Bangkok setting would no longer be organic.

      • IgorWasTaken

        In the final scene of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, IIRC the big final laugh is when Ethel Merman slips on a banana peel.

        That said, I agree with the premise of your post.

      • carsonreeves1

        it’s strange but it’s so true. A woman is missing, it’s a tragedy. A man is missing, nobody gives a sh*t. And we’re all guilty of feeling this way. Go read your local news. If you find a story about a random guy missing, take note of how you feel. You just don’t care.

        • witwoud

          Joss Whedon said something to the effect that, if he wanted to inject some real drama into an episode of Buffy, he’d have someone kidnap Willow. It never failed.

          If someone kidnapped Xander, on the other hand, who’d care? We’d laugh.

        • JayRaz

          Around my neck of the woods, a man — a husband and father to a young baby — did go missing and was found dead, burnt to an unrecognizable degree. EVERYONE cared. EVERYONE was and still is horrified. What planet do you people live on?????

          • Lisa Aldin

            I think, at least I hope, what was meant by Carson’s comment is that the media reports more on missing women and children rather than missing men.

        • tom8883

          Yeah but it also has to do with the way that it’s reported.

      • ArabyChic

        … yeahhh, no. I’m not buying that, really.

        I understand the point your making, but I think your hyperbole is undoing it for you. I think there’s definitely a stronger knee jerk reaction when violence in a movie is aimed at a woman. I don’t think the opposite is true, when it happens to men or boys (in REAL movies, not some bullshit action movie where people are suspended in the air for two minutes while firing twin .45s) it’s a joke. A young boy is a statistic? Male rape is humorous? Prostate cancer is the butt of jokes? Look at movies where grown men have to deal with disease, loss of their sons (there are MANY – I might even say to greater effect) and the consequences of rape and torture. If it’s well done it’s well done. It’s simple minded to just say, “eh, it doesn’t really effect me cuz there’s a penis involved.”

        Anyway, the only way to truly hurt your audience is to behead a giraffe and I think we all know that.

        • witwoud

          Wait, was the giraffe a female? Okay, now I’m really, REALLY upset.

        • Carson D

          I want you to imagine TAKEN with the genders reversed:

          A mother has to rescue her teenage virgin son, who’s been sold as a sex slave to a wealthy Arabian businesswoman.

          Now be honest here: does that sound to you like a somber action flick like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon? Or does it sound more like a stoner/action comedy like Harold And Kumar and Pineapple Express?

          It certainly sounds to me like a comedy and I can see the poster for it already: MisTAKEN — staring Melissa McCarthy as the kick ass mom and Michael Cera as the shy virginal teenage boy. (attention producers: I want story by credits)

          My point is simple: it is our default behavior to make light of certain situations where males are victims. Rightly or wrongly, that’s just the way we are.

          • ff

            Sounds WAY more interesting to me.

          • Will Vega

            ^This.

            Argue until you’re blue in the face, but the unfortunate reality is that when bad things happen to a woman or a child we immediatly become sympathetic. When these things happen to men, they’re usually not taken as seriously or even taken humorously.

            Reason being is that the preconceived notion is that women/children are vulnerable and need protection while men are viewed as capable and not needing of protection. And sad to say, it doesn’t always work that way…but that’s the stereotype everyone has ingrained in themselves.

            It’s this kind of thinking that prevents male rape from being taken seriously or even keep trends like superheroines gracing the big screen (or Twilight being popular).

          • ArabyChic

            I think you’re missing the point. Like I said, as an initial knee jerk reaction, I think you’re right. But to dismiss the loss of a male in one’s life as common or just accepted is creatively shortsighted.

            Taken is the epitome of the cliche ridden action movie, where characterization is almost nil. That’s exactly the kind of movie we’re talking about, and summarily dismissing. And of course by casting your hypothetical film with the most ridiculous choices possible you prove it to be comedic. There is a whole subgenre of female action movies where a woman is avenging the death of a family member or lover. Many of these movies are quite good. So if a woman can successfully be a vengeance figure, it stands to reason that the person she is avenging can also be a man (as many times it is). There is also a sub-sub genre of noir, where mothers go to great lengths to protect their children – both boys and girls – from threatening influences.

            The point is this: if you’re a good writer, losing a husband, or losing a son, or whatever male, will be equally as painful because you will paint the mourning as being crushing.

          • Lisa Aldin

            And you’ve completely missed the point.

      • JayRaz

        This is bullshit. If you cannot create a male character who goes missing/is kidnapped/murdered etc. then you haven’t done your job as a writer. People have sons, brothers, and fathers whom they love. Why would they not care just as much compared to their daughters, sisters, and mothers? That is evolutionary too — a biological connection to one’s kin.

        There was that film out a couple years ago about a father trying to protect his son from being eaten by carnivores, one of those end of the world films THE ROAD I think — you’re trying to tell me that people didn’t see that and root for that father and son?

        I have three sons. They are the only ones I would defend with my own life and if I had to, I know I would kill another to protect them.

        • Will Vega

          It CAN be done, I don’t think anyone is saying it can’t be. What I’m saying (speaking strictly for myself) is that it’s the default position, it’s much easier to write women and children in peril then men in peril unless it’s a situation like War (Vin Diesel’s scene in Saving Private Ryan comes to mind).

          So yes, you CAN do it…you just have to work harder on it especially if the premise is of a missing/kidnapped person.

      • JakeBarnes12

        “This is just the way humans are.”

        Your view of life is highly reductive, the way all such “universal” views are.

        What you are ignoring is the specifics of historical periods and cultures. In certain Eastern cultures even today girl children are often denigrated and sometimes murdered, while boy children are prized.

        While your argument lacks historical and cultural specificity, it also assumes that cultures cannot evolve in their attitudes. To put it another way, what you call “psychology” can change.

        We need look no further than our own country’s history of racism, sexism, and homophobia, and the steps that we are taking towards greater equality. The way in which black characters were portrayed in American films of the 1930s and 40s (basically as children needing guidance from whites) is very different from current media portrayals which run the gamut from presidents to businessmen and women, to criminals.

        Arguing from “psychology” that women should be portrayed as victims to garner maximum sympathy is merely a cover for your own non-evolved ideas of women’s roles in our culture.

        Luckily women can and have challenged such assumptions in real life as in the media. That is why women today have more opportunities today than forty years ago, though of course much more work is left to be done.

      • Zadora

        I strongly disagree that missing little boys are afterthoughts statistics. All little kids are the same. Little kids…

    • carsonreeves1

      I think one has a responsibility, Lisa, to make all of their characters real people, as fleshed out as they can possibly be, so as to avoid this trap. I agree with you that if you’re simply slapping a female face on a character who gets kidnapped to gain sympathy, it won’t work. You have to put in the work and make that character real first.

      • Lisa Aldin

        Totally. That’s all I’m saying!! =)

        • Get Your Ass To Mars

          That is why audiences were saddened (and outraged in some cases) when not only Newt, but also Hicks and the android Bishop were smashed up and killed during the opening credits of Alien 3.

          A freaking android. We gave a shit about a freaking android in a movie about space truckers who zap space bugs with cool looking guns. Now that is some good characterization.

          Actually, that gives me an idea…

    • John Bradley

      Why not combine that tip with the thing that pissed Carson off from the Hangover? Why not have the bad guy kill the good guys dog? It would totally gain sympathy!

      • ArabyChic

        They tried that in Payback. The studio reshot it because everyone was too sad that the dog died.

  • Somersby

    Given the tumultuous reception the film was given at Cannes, I half-expected the script to be indulgent, unfocused and unsettling.

    Yeah, it’s a tad unsettling in places, but it’s also a pretty solid read. In fact, the writing is about as far away from indulgent and unfocused as you can get. It’s admirably tight and concise.

    I particularly like the way the writer doesn’t waste time with information that has little to do with the actual meat of the story. For example, we learn that Julian is involved with moving a huge amount of heroin through his boxing club. A lot of writers would choose to show that, to build a B-story around his criminal activities. But it’s mere background, and Nicolas Winding Refn wisely chooses to keep it there. Instead, he immerses us into the world that Julian inhabits: Bangkok at its seediest and grittiest. Everyone here is stained or corrupt. It’s only a question of to what degree.

    Similarly, there’s no effort expended to explain or justify Chang’s bizarre appointment as the Angel of Vengeance. We are told simply that Chang spent a year in a coma and he awoke a changed man. “And when I woke up I was no longer the man I once was.” In the hands of a lesser writer, that might come off sounding pretty corny. But because this script is imbued with such a vivid sense of Bangkok’s dark underbelly, a place where evil goes unchecked, and where a 15-year-old prostitute is viciously murdered on a drug-fuelled whim, we don’t question how—we accept it because the story craves it. And because we need it.

    There are elements of the script that are uncomfortably over-the-top, especially the scene where Chang tortures Dimitri. If the scene is as explicit in the film as it is in the script, I can see why people had trouble with it. It took me about two days to shake that particular scene from my head (Aw hell, now it’s back again!) Not sure if I could sit through watching it on the big screen.

    Still, I really enjoyed this script, largely due to the writer’s ability to create and sustain a consistent and pervasive tone throughout. The tone here is incredibly vivid and effective. It’s mysterious and dangerous and strangely enthralling. And it undergirds the story from start to finish.

    [X] Worth the read. Definitely.

    • DD

      Yeah I read this a while back and I kinda enjoyed it. It wasn’t amazing, but I figured with Refn’s track record, he’d make it work on screen. Sounds like this wasn’t the case. That said, the trailer looked amazing!

  • Bfied

    I’m confused; I’m on the scriptshadow newsletter, however, I didn’t receive this script…

    Is there some hidden link I’m unaware of? Thank you…

    • WhizViz

      The newsletter of today is a neutered version that no longer contains links to anything non-amateur.

      • Bfied

        oh ok, thank you for clearing that up…

      • jridge32

        But is still very much appreciated.

    • Citizen M

      It’s on the net. Google only god forgives script pdf download and follow the link given in the tumblr entry.

  • Guest

    Carson, you should pay more attention when you read. It is clearly implied in the opening that Julian used to be a fighter and that he owns a gym and trains fighters. Later in the story we learn that Chang used to be a champion himself, but his last fight put him in a coma – when he awoke from that coma is when he became the Avenging Angel because of some spiritual stuff he experienced while unconscious. The fight still doesn’t make much sense in the plot, but we do know both are fighters.

    The revenge goal isn’t a flawed one, it’s actually an interesting twist, only Refn doesn’t play it out in a very satisfactory way. Think about it: Julian wants to avenge his brother until he learns what his brother did and decides he had it coming. Then his mother arrives, who not only is the boss of a crime family but also has some twisted control over Julian, and she demands his brother be avenged. Julian finds himself torn between what’s right and what’s demanded from him. That’s actually compelling drama – or, well, it could have been.

    This is a very early draft, with a lot of development and complexity missing. It’s like if Refn has just drawn the main lines of his story but hasn’t fleshed them out yet. There’s no point reviewing such an early draft. You should have waited for the movie.

    • carsonreeves1

      I’m not saying there isn’t a way to make the storyline work with him avenging his brother’s death, only to realize he’s a bad person and doesn’t want to avenge it, only to realize, once again, he has to for his mom – I’m just saying it’s very unlikely.

      I should’ve made it clearer that while I understood there was some mention of the two being fighters in their past, it wasn’t satisfactory. Just alluding to once being a fighter isn’t enough. There should’ve been some “showing” there if possible.

      And yes, it must always be noted that this is a second draft – although everything I’m hearing about the finished film is saying this is the exact same story.

      • Guest

        Yes, the same story but with more texture and detail. Let’s face it: this is not a movie you go to expecting to watch a great story. Like Drive, this is all about style. Drive had a simpler and more familiar storyline, and that made the characters more relatable – well, they actually were more relatable.

        About whether the conflicted-revenge storyline could work, you have to keep in mind this is a tragedy, which isn’t a very popular genre anymore. I think that, as a tragedy, it could work brilliantly, but it wouldn’t reach a wide audience because the genre itself isn’t very hot.

        My point about reviewing such an early draft is just that there’s not much to learn from it because it’s too raw. Here’s a suggestion: instead of trying to review the latest thing, most of which aren’t all that good, why not start a series of reviews covering the AFI top 100 films? Twice a week, you’d cover the list in a year. And those are actual masterpieces, there’s plenty to learn from them. Just a suggestion.

        • Citizen M

          I diasagree on reviewing the final script that is the product of a thousand notes and rewrites.

          If you want to learn how a magic trick is done, do you watch the polished stage performance, or the magician practicing and failing before he masters the trick?

          • Guest

            Oh, please, that’s a poor analogy. Of course you don’t review a script until it’s done. This is not magic: you read the final script, or watch the movie, and everything is there, out in the open. The inner workings are exposed.

            With a draft as rough as this one, there isn’t much to analyze. Have you read it? It’s easily available in Google. It’s not about notes or rewrites: the scrip isn’t fresh, it just isn’t done. You don’t get bread out of the oven when it isn’t even half baked, take a bite and judge its quality. See? This analogy is much more accurate than yours.

            And note that I didn’t mention he should have reviewed the final script, just that this draft was too rough to learn anything from it. And, especially, too rough to rate it. The whole rating system defeats the purpose of these reviews. To study and learn, you don’t need to pass judgement, especially when the script is as obviously far from finished as this one. It’s just lazy and, what’s more, it’s damaging and unfair.

            I think most of the changes Scriptshadow has gone through have addressed a lot of the criticism and concern in the screenwriting community about this site and its practices. That’s to Carson’s credit. If he reviewed the rating system, at least when it comes to unfinished drafts, it would be yet another change for the better.

            Just my opinion, but I think it’s worth considering.

          • Somersby

            Scripts are often rewritten by other writers–at times, multiple writers in succession. I think there is great value to be found in reading the original writer’s early drafts. After all, it’s his/her original idea that spawned the story in the first place.

            Frequently “finished” scripts are the result of copious nonsensical notes by money-driven executives and producers who are willing to sacrifice any originality the script in order to produce the next best thing that’s identical to the last best thing.

            Just my opiniion, but I think it’s worth sharing.

          • Guest

            Let’s not talk in general: do you think this draft is ready to be reviewed? Developed enough so that’s fair rating it? This draft, this particular draft, not some hypothetical “original writer’s early draft”. What do you think?

          • Somersby

            Read the review I posted earlier. I like the script a lot. I think there’s a tremendous amount a writer can learn from it– particularly how to create and maintain the tone of a script. Nicolas Winding Refn does a superb job of that here.

            I’m not trying to egg you or anyone else into an argument. If you only wish to read a shooting draft, that’s fine. Personally, I’m not sure if there’s a lot about the writing process that can be gleaned from doing just that.

            Since this film is already in the can (or should I say “Cannes”?) there are no ethical issues involved. Scriptwriting is as much about the journey as it is about the final product. I think a lot of people who frequent this board are interested in knowing more about the journey.

            Cheers.

          • Citizen M

            If Carson was writing for the general public it would be unfair to review unfinished scripts. But he isn’t. This is a website for aspirant screenwriters. We are interested in seeing what works and what doesn’t work in the draft in front of us.

            We know that the final version might be very different. That doesn’t matter to us. We’re not condemning the finished movie before seeing it. We are saying, if a movie was made from this script, then we think the movie will be [whatever].

            This is not a movie review site (okay, apart from the movie reviews), this is a script review site, of scripts at any stage of completion, and seeks to inform only writers of scripts.

          • Citizen M

            If you didn’t like my analogy, let me give you another one.

            Imagine a girl getting ready for the prom. She’s sitting in her bedroom with her best friend and they are experimenting with shades of lipstick, amount of eyeliner, sexiness of underwear, whatever it is that girls do.

            We are like the best friend. We agonize with the girl over how to achieve precisely the right effect. The general public is like the boy coming to pick her up. He sees the finished product.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Well said. And yet, I can see how that analogy won’t resonate with some folks (especially those who’ve never tried to perfect a magic trick).

  • jridge32

    I can see why this got the jeer at Cannes: it’s about characters we don’t like doing things that are reprehensible. And then singing karaoke.

    Not that getting booed at Cannes means much. Look at “Wild at Heart”. What I mean is, I can see why anyone wouldn’t care for this.

    “Only God Forgives” is readable, but also thoroughly style over substance. Mood over logic. Clearly designed to be a very LIT movie — an island in a sea of neon… the neon lights bleed over his face… the colours of the room change from blue to yellow to red — lingering on mutilation and dismemberment as if to elevate them beyond exploitation into art, and have the grotesque carry some vague, deeper significance (?), “Only God Forgives” follows Julian (#1 character we don’t like), a Muay Thai boxing promoter in Bangkok, seeking revenge on behalf of his mum, Jenna (#2), for the murder of his brother Billy (#3.. although I might rank him above Julian since the guy’s penchant for underage girls, whom he murders after sex, gets him, in turn, murdered which doesn’t exactly rev my engines for his demise being avenged since he had it coming and even Julian himself admits this at one point).

    I suppose there’s a theme of mothers and sons, here.. in that there is a mother. And two sons. Usually it’s a father bullying the kids toward the men they will become. Them struggling to live up to his expectations; cowering at his feet because those expectations can’t be met. Eventually standing up to him. So, changing the sex of the parent is novel. I guess. Jenna does do some bullying. And says “cunt” a lot.

    The script is full of dull, no-subtext-whatsoever conversations in between lovingly detailed killings. Occasionally, these exchanges are weirdly contradictory:

    JENNA: This is Bangkok. Nothing’s that expensive.
    YURI KARKOV You’re right. Most things are cheap in Bangkok. Especially life… We’ll take care of this business for you. But it won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap. (I’m sorry, is life expensive or cheap?)

    Then, conversations get just plain… well, you tell me:

    CHANG: You want the Angel of Vengeance.
    JULIAN: Yes.
    CHANG: Why?
    JULIAN: Cause, all my life… I don’t know.
    CHANG: Yes you do.
    JULIAN: My mother wants me to kill you.
    CHANG: And what do you want?
    JULIAN: … I love violence.

    I’m not sure if I hated this script, or not. The folks in it, without question. It’s a swift read, strikingly visual and propulsive. Like “Kill Bill – Vol. 1″ minus the intelligence, humor or protagonist we actually give a shit about and want to see succeed.

    Jury’s out.

    • Alan Burnett

      “it’s about characters we don’t like doing things that are reprehensible. And then singing karaoke.”
      This is the greatest review I’ve ever read. About anything.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I agree. What I was suggesting: The failure isn’t that choice, which presumably was quite deliberate. Rather, the failure is the failure to make that choice work.

    • Andrew Mullen

      The difference is that “In Bruges” is really REALLY fucking funny and it cuts away all the bleakness and sad like it’s not even there. The humor gives us the hope we need.

      That and Ferrell’s character was so clearly tortured and broken over what he’d done it. There was his hope for redemption, that also gives us hope.

      The only film that I can think of that sounds as hopelessly bleak and dire is “Ichi the Killer” which…70% of the way through the movie I thought was complete trash. You kind of expect that with a hyperviolent movie about a psychopath who kills criminals by literally chopping then in half with razor-lined sneakers…but I’m watching it thinking, “Jesus. EVERY character in this movie is so beyond repugnant that I cannot latch onto any of them.” The one character who was “least repugnant” a disgraced cop who had to work for a gang ends up beating a completely innocent defenseless young prostitute to death (who’d already been tortured into a near coma and was laying on a table gurgling).

      Then I got to the end and I realized that was the point of the entire movie. That these are all horrible monsters, and it’s that search for redemption THROUGH violence which caused them to be monsters. And if they had just turned their backs on it and walked away and tried to be better people, they could have.

      From what I’ve read of “Only God Forgives”, Refn’s intention is the complete opposite. Saying something about how men must act like primates and bash each other’s heads in or something.

      • IgorWasTaken

        I just recall vividly, as I watched the opening scenes, thinking – How in the hell am I gonna want to watch these guys for 2 hours? They’re bad, bad people.

        And yes, In Bruges is funny; though, it’s certainly not a comedy. I’d say it’s “really REALLY fucking funny” (as you say) because of the small ways in which it’s funny in the midst of the rest. (OK, yeh – The climax is simply funny.)

        I’m not saying it’s a template. And yet, if someone asks, “How can you make scumbags sympathetic?”, I’d hold up In Bruges as one way to do that.

        • Jonathan

          In Refn’s script we see the scumbag brother beat and kill the underage girl and fee no remorse.

          Can you see the difference, Igor, between that and In Bruges where the character shoots the child by accident off-screen and feels terrible about it?

          These are the sort of distinctions that make the difference between a script that works and one that doesn’t.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Yes, he feels terrible about killing the kid.

            But does he feel bad about any of the other killings-for-hire and other bad stuff he’s done? The fact that he feels bad about the kid, and just that, does that make things OK?

            I don’t think that that’s the reason why that script/film works. For starters, when do we learn about what happened to the kid and about his remorse? He’s a bad guy from the get-go, so why is it that we stick around to eventually care for him?

            As I replied to Andre Mullen, we come to care about Ferrell’s character because we come to care for Ferrell’s partner, and then we come to see Ferrell through his partner’s eyes.

            The writer got us to care about a 2nd character, and used that now-trusted character (so to speak) to convert our feelings for Ferrell’s character. If all Ferrell’s character did was express remorse for killing the kid, IMO that would not have been enough.

            It was the caring-bankshot that was so masterful.

            In any event, my point about In Bruges is that it shows one way to make it work.

          • Nate

            ”But does he feel bad about any of the other killings-for-hire and other bad stuff he’s done? The fact that he feels bad about the kid, and just that, does that make things OK?”

            I might be wrong about this but I think one of the characters says that Farrell’s character hadn’t killed anyone before the priest and the child. It was his first job for Ralph Fiennes.

            I’d actually really like to see Carson break down In Bruges for one of his Tuesday articles. It’s a movie that breaks the rules but somehow it works.

          • IgorWasTaken

            Nate, according to Wikipedia, you are correct about that and I am wrong. It was his first hit job. Thanks for the correction. (I saw the film some time ago and mostly recall he was “a hitman”.)

            That said, did he express remorse for killing the priest? (I can’t recall what the priest did to cause the boss to want him killed.)

          • Nate

            I don’t think he did express remorse for killing the priest. He does say right before he kills him that ”Harry sends his regards” but why Harry even wants him dead I have no idea. It might have been alluded to but if it was I missed it.

  • jridge32

    “Sure, it’s more traditional, but I’ll take a traditional storyline that works over an non-traditional one that doesn’t any day.”

    Carson, you almost made me clap out loud.

  • feefifoooo

    Scorsese, Antonioni, Bresson and Dreyer’s work — work now considered essential — were all booed at Cannes. I mean, friggin’ Taxi Driver, for the love of Christ. I’m not saying Refn or this movie in particular are on par with those ones; I’m just saying booing at Cannes means next to nothing and shouldn’t be seen as some legit barometer of quality.

  • MayfieldLake

    I want to spend time with people I want to be around. This doesn’t mean they have to be nice or funny or even good, but I have to actually want to be around them for whatever reason. If they make me miserable, I should probably stop seeing them.

    This is true in movies as it is in life.

    For memorial day I re-watched Saving Private Ryan. There’s some serious darkness and depravity in that movie. But at the end of the day, it was a pleasurable and rewarding experience because I wanted to be around that flawed cast of people. There was hope and light in the bleak. Writing about dark things doesn’t have to be all dark.

    I, and audiences, don’t support a worldview where life is shit.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I wrote: “And so the challenge for the reviewer, perhaps, is to offer how it might work despite the fact that revenge is being sought for an unlikeable person.

    Steve-Jim wrote: “You’re the one trying to impose the suggestion that Carson should try to make a bad idea work.

    I was trying to “impose the suggestion”? Oh, OK Steve-Jim.

  • ncmeyer

    I read the script over the summer and it underwhelmed me. Then, I read it a few weeks back and I enjoyed it a lot more.

    I think I misunderstood the dynamic between the characters the first time I read it. First of all, Julian has some serious mommy issues. His duty to his mother is to avenge his brother’s death. And he does it. Julian doesn’t understand right from wrong, love from what isn’t, because he was raised by a psychopathic bitch.

    In my opinion, the whole revenge part is just for a little plot to a more existential story. It’s Julian’s struggle with himself to understand morality. He dreams of Chang, “The Angel of Vengeance”, just as a prophet would dream of God. Julian wants to fight God to push the boundaries of mortality. When he loses to Chang, he becomes human. The script culminates with the beginning of what could be a relationship between him and Mai as a way to show Julian’s newfound humility.

    I don’t know how deep this script is actually, as this is Nicolas Winding Refn we’re talking about. But he did say the script was birthed from an idea he had centering around a man who wants to fight God. So yeah, probably a little bit more going on than Carson alludes to.

    • jridge32

      “His duty to his mother is to avenge his brother’s death. And he does it.”

      He gets his ass kicked, then winds up in a hospital unable to hold things anymore… I may need to look up the word avenge.

  • Citizen M

    If you write a drama about an indecisive college student you have an agsty hipster borefest of which there are already too many. If you write a drama about an indecisive Prince of Denmark you have Hamlet.

    So Refn does the right thing by populating his script with characters who are larger than life. Jenna is an uber-bitch mother. Chang the Angel of Vengeance has a reality distortion field that affects all around him. Billy the brother is the lowest of the low. And Julian is the best, er, I dunno, the best ex-Thai boxer, maybe. Anyway, he can be a pretty mean motherfucker when he wants to be.

    So they hold our interest because they are powerful characters. To an extent. Chang spends so much time singing cheesy Country and Western you could almost describe this as The Wild Bunch meets Dolly Parton. And, my pet peeve, they have visions, and nightmares, and reality seems to shift at times.

    At one point Chang looks out of a window at a busy Bangkok street. Suddenly he sees only the male pedestrians. Then he sees only the female pedestrians. Then he sees the street normally again. What does this mean? I want to scream when I read this type of thing. It seems to have no relevance to the story. It’s the director putting his personal stamp on things, or something. (Like Spike Lee’s “glide” shot. Urgh. Watched 25th Hour the other day. What is the point, except to try and impress us?)

    I’m sure the final movie will be very stylish with neon light and wet-down streets and balletic blood spatter. But what Refn was trying to say I don’t know.

    I would call it Magical Realism rather than Drama. There is too much that doesn’t quite make sense for it to be a drama, like why Chang would agree to fight Julian. If I have any suggestions they are for the characters to have better motivations for doing what they do. But I think you just have to accept or reject Refn’s vision. It wasn’t for me, but as a piece of writing I’d rate it [x] worth the read.

  • Ahnult

    I’d heard about the booing at Cannes, but also read a report from someone in attendance who said he didn’t hear any booing at all. Anybody here catch the screening?

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I didn’t attend myself but the booing was limited, it wasn’t the whole audience tripping out :-)

  • romer6

    I remember this movie called Law Abiding Citizen where a father watches his wife and child(ren?) get raped and killed, then the law let the murderers walk away and the father is going to inflict revenge not only on the perpetrators but also on those who let they walk away. That was a really strange and unlikable movie. From the start I was deeply disturbed by the rape and murder of the wife and child. So I was inclined to root for the father. But then he starts killing everyone around and it became quite a mess. I don´t know, maybe if I were watching a horror movie I´d be less affected (if it is even possible given the situation), but in a thriller it just didn´t work for me. Of course, we want the criminals to be punished and, probably, we want them dead. But does the father need to dismember one of the guys piece by piece? I don´t really know. There is this kind of violence that just becomes too much, I guess. That makes even the illusion of cinema slip away. Maybe that´s the same case here.

    • Nate

      The script for Law Abiding Citizen was much more violent. At one point the police find the dismembered head of one of the rapists with his eyes cut out and his dick in his mouth (I think). The violence went hand in hand with the story I thought.

      You have this guy who is completely consumed with rage towards the law, he’ll do whatever it takes to make things right. From the moment you see him watching Jamie Foxx opposite the courthouse, you want him to kill the rapists. He’s the character you’re supposed to root for.

      But then he starts killing the people involved with the case and you realise that the man you’ve been rooting for is now on the same level as the rapists. Now you start to root for Jamie Foxx and you wanna see Gerard Butler get what he deserves.

      So I think the violence helped tell the story. It showed us exactly what the character was willing to do in order to make a point I guess. It helped us understand just how angry he is at the justice system.

      A think a better example would be Robocop. That was violent for the sake of it. We didn’t need to see that overly long scene where Alex Murphy is murdered. Or the scene where one of the murderers gets disfigured by acid and then blown up when a car runs over him.

      That kind of violence did nothing to help tell the story. I’d still wanna see him enact revenge on the murderers if all they had done was shoot him in the head once.

      • Andrew Mullen

        Robocop was not violent for the sake of violence.

        Paul Verhoeven’s whole deal is satire that’s so close to the bone it can be taken at face value. See also Starship Troopers.

        • Get Your Ass To Mars

          I love Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers. Verhoeven is sorely missed. I’d love to see him make another crazy sci-fi/action flick.

          The violence in Robocop though, was partly there to show how dehumanizing the future had become in that film. OCP makes weapons for the police and military and just has very little regard for most people in general. The satirical tone and insane violence reinforces that theme. A great example is the early boardroom scene with ED209 accidentally blasting the poor junior executive, then everyone shrugs it off and is like, “oh well, too bad, how is this gonna affect the company stock?”

          I also think that part of the over-the-top violence in Robocop comes from the Judge Dredd influences. It is a different tone and approach than what most audiences were familiar with in sci-fi, both then and particularly in the PG-13 times we live in now. Just as in Judge Dredd’s stomping grounds of Mega-City One in the old 2000AD comic books, everything in Robocop is amped up and BIGGER. It is a very comic book and cyberpunk outlook, but I think it works for the material. I mean, it is a concept that boils down to robot + cop. B movie material really, just like The Terminator, but both films seem to me to have more to say than most would expect such films to contain.

    • Radu Huciu

      romer6, I know what you’re saying and I’m not defending Law Abiding Citizen here (even though I liked it), but put yourself in the father’s shoes: your wife, the love of your life, the center of your universe…raped and killed; your child, the light of your eyes, the source of everything good about your…taken from you by these two lowlives. What would you do to those men? Just saying…

  • http://twitter.com/4450dawson Mike.H

    The other flick that was BOO’d extensively @ Canne was Anthonio Bandera’s skin flick that dealt with extreme violence…

  • kidbaron

    I tried reading this a while back and couldn’t finish it. For me, there wasn’t a compelling quest or questioned to be answered, i.e. I knew all the players and what they had done so the conflicts they headed into were predictable. I saw stuff coming a mile away. Julien’s mom hooked me some. She was the most interesting character, but not enough to keep me reading.

    The movie does look pretty though.

    I checked out a few of Refn’s other movies. His Pusher trilogy bore me for some reason. I love crime movies, but I can’t get past the first 10 minutes of any of them. He had a Viking movie that was pretty to look at. His thing for violence was there, but in the end it rambled on and on.

    Has anyone seen Bronson? That is one that he seems to get the most praise for. It’s another blood fest from what I’ve read about.

    • Nickmistro

      Forgot he did Bronson, that one is a very interesting character study though.

    • Andrew Mullen

      I had mixed feelings about Bronson. It’s interesting, but I felt like I didn’t get any sense of who Bronson actually was as the film was more interested in pageantry than telling a clear narrative.

      It’s hallucinatory and style over substance, I suppose that’s hard to get away from when you’re dealing with a guy who gets naked and covers himself in gold paint before getting into fights with prison guards, but I would have liked a bit more context.

      I also got that feeling I get with a lot of biopics about people who are household names in their land but unknown in mine where I feel like I need some sort of primer before I see the film to really “get” it.

      Character study would be more accurate than biography, definitely.

  • Ahnult

    Or maybe they were just shouting “Booo-urns!”…….for some strange reason….

  • Get Your Ass To Mars

    Bloodsport. You’re right Carson, as I was reading the synopsis, this film increasingly sounded like an old school B-grade Van Damme martial arts revenge flick done up instead as an edgy and dark indie film without the triple jump kicks?

  • Get Your Ass To Mars

    … haunted by dead movie stars?

  • fragglewriter

    Thank you for explaining the film Carson, as I’ve watched the trailer twice, and I still didn’t know what it was about.

    The booing at Cannes doesn’t mean, as you can’t please everyone. But if the film is about nonsensical plot points, then I have to wonder how the film has made it that far. Don’t actors read a script and say “wtf” or are they simply just happy to be the bad ass star of the film?

  • Somersby

    You are talking about prose, not screenwriting, I’m afraid.

    Sorry. What???

  • Tonytrey

    Well this happened in a suburb outside of Toronto so folks worldwide wouldn’t have heard of it. But all of the surrounding area of Toronto grieved for this poor man and his family. RIP Tim Bosma.

  • mwiafe

    Yeah this script was a big disappointment. Before I read the script I watched the red band trailer – I knew about the violence but I thought it would be tasteful or at least in context like that awesome movie Old Boy. oh well.

    Side note: Taxi Driver was booed out of cannes too. Despite what I’ve read and what the critics say, I’m definitely catching this on the big screen.

  • martin_basrawy

    Can I just ask a slightly related question? I’m relatively new to Script Shadow. Are a lot of posters here, like, industry insiders? I ask because everyone seems to have read the latest scripts. How do you guys get your hands on them? So I guess what I’m asking is: how do I get my hands on scripts like Only God Forgives? :)

  • Citizen M

    FrostyChud from France on IMDb might have cracked the code.

    Notice too that we never find out if Julian’s girlfriend is a woman or a ladyboy. This confusion is alluded to in the opening scenes with Billy at the brothel and is further confirmed by the way in which Refn films Mai slowly lifting her skirt to show a breathless Julian whatever it is he/she has under there. Like all perverse subjects, Julian is haunted by the fantasy of the maternal phallus. [snip] For the perverse subject, femininity is intolerable because in his unconscious, women are nothing but castrated men. He cannot understand that the essence of femininity is infinite interiority. Notice too how Refn’s dojo is a surreal labyrinth: Julian has no representation for the labyrinth of femininity because he is stuck INSIDE the labyrinth of his mother’s body.

    http://www.imdb.com/user/ur8067828/comments

  • TGivens

    Still have high hopes for this movie. I mean it can’t be worse than The Hangover Part 3, right?

  • ArabyChic

    Millions of people took Fast and Furious 6 seriously. I don’t think I’m going to start emulating their screenwriting because of it.

  • IgorWasTaken

    I’m dyslexic. So you may be right.

    OTOH, so is Charles Schwab, and he’s a real nice guy.

  • Citizen M

    I didn’t mean for anyone to take the review seriously. It’s an example of someone forgetting that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • JWF

    It’s worth noting Pulp Fiction got a few boos when screened at Cannes…

  • maleficedark

    Taxi driver , Pulp fiction , Wild at Heart were booed but won the palme d’or. The guys in the jury know a little bit about movies .

    I thought the script was good until Ryan ask the cop to fight him . Then is pretty bad . I didn’t understand why Julian kill the cop’s wife and why the cop don’t kill everyone before they hurt his family.

    Refn said that the movie was about a man who believes is god , and a man who search for a religion . But i did not read that in the script.

    I think it would have been better if the story was about Julian trying to kill his mother and fight her henchmen.

    And for the ” what i leaned” note : The Godfather might be a counter example .But i’m not sure on this one.
    I did not mind the violence because there a lot a violent films that i liked ( Korea ! )

    Refn is a good director who work with great DP but he is not a great witer yet . I love the mood of his movie and the audacity but he has to work on making better story.

    ps; Am i the only one who thought Drive was an unbelievable story ? :)

  • Tonytrey

    And that of course that difference has nothing to do with the surgence of anti-bullying across the continent.

  • Film_Shark

    I can’t analyze a film that I haven’t seen yet so I’ll have to patiently wait for its release. What I will say is that some excellent cinema is coming out of Denmark. Not only from Nicolas Winding Refn but from Lars von Trier (Dogville, Melancholia) and Susanne Bier (In a Better World). Unfortunately, Trier’s Nazi comments got him banned from showing his latest film project, ‘Nymphomaniac’ starring Charlotte Gainsbourg at Cannes.

    All I’ll say is that quality films over time are usually the most polarizing. Look at Stanley Kubrick films. Everyone of his films were panned by the critics when released in theatres. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ was almost pulled by MGM studio from theatres until pot-smoking college students discovered it and made it a cult film. The mass audience eventually appreciated it more over time. Same with ‘The Shining,’ most hated it when they first saw it and now embrace it as one of the best horror films ever made.

    I think American audiences can handle a violent film. I mean look at Tarantino. Everyone accepts his over-the-top ultra-violence as par for the course. ‘Only God Forgives’ is on my must-see list.

  • rosemary

    Wasn’t for me either.

  • srdiction

    Read it some time ago. It felt like a first draft. Takeshi Kitano would’ve been great as Chang.