In the first of a new series of writers defending mostly loathed films, a plea to reconsider Nicolas Winding Refn’s gory follow-up to Drive

In the lead-up to the release of Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn gave an interview where he referred to himself as “a pornographer”, compelled to making images that arouse him without necessarily processing what they mean or what effect they might have on an audience. A few months before, Only God Forgives had premiered to the worst reception of any film in competition at Cannes (preceding a string of negative write-ups upon release), the opposite of the rapture that had greeted Refn’s Drive two years earlier, when he earned a standing ovation, a best director prize and the runway for his biggest commercial success by far. What had changed so much from one film to another?

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