The story is certainly as simple as its predecessor: Julian (Ryan Gosling), a drug-smuggler who runs a boxing club in Thailand, finds out that his brother is killed for murdering an underage girl. His mother (Kristin Scott Thomas) urges him to find the man responsible, a high ranking police official named Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), and kill him for revenge. The plot, like in Drive, is really only in place so that Refn can explore the complications of his characters in the most visual ways possible. If you're coming to Only God Forgives just to see more of the masterful aesthetic Refn has been crafting over his career, you won't be disappointed. The lighting alone is award-worthy, drenching every scene with the appropriate mood and atmosphere. And the one color that seems to encapsulate the mood and atmosphere of Only God Forgives is red. Anger, lust and blood certainly factor heavily throughout the course of the picture. If Drive's color palette sought to evoke warmth, then Only God Forgives injects a coldness straight into your veins. Nothing feels inviting or appealing, and that's another element that is probably turning people away.
Refn's love of utilizing music to set the scene shines through in a different way this time. The same synth tones are there, but they are utilized to compliment the picture's gritty sensibilities. Drive's music lent the movie a sort of video game aura, whereas Only God Forgives has a score that gives things a real "back alley" feel. It's just another piece of a puzzle that seems tailor-made to challenge and incite its audience, and I love it.