By Scott Tobias"Only God Forgives exists in a kind of cinematic no man’s land, too arch for the genre fans and too grotesque for the arthouse set. And yet it’s fully in keeping with Refn’s evolution as a film-maker, which started with the kicked-up pulp of his Pusher trilogy and has grown in formal rigor ever since, pivoting on a Norse adventure film, 2009’s Valhalla Rising, that starts as a Crusades bloodbath and grows more and more abstract as it goes along. For all of Refn’s evident skill at staging punchy action sequences, he’s become increasingly interested in deconstructing and manipulating our expectations of what genre movies should be. That’s maddening. It’s also, in the right frame of mind, mesmerizing.
Opening the film in bright reds and deep blacks, Refn is making noir in color, replacing the single-source black-and-white of American classics with an equally eye-catching study in contrasts. Few neo-noirs have made such a strong visual impression, because they don’t limit their visual palette as much as Refn does here – every frame is carved with precise color and light, like the fussed-over panels of a graphic novel. Combined with the humming synths of Cliff Martinez – who had composed the score for Drive, too, as well as many Steven Soderbergh movies – the film accomplishes more through mood than action, capturing the dilemma of an antihero who exists in a paralyzing state of moral limbo."