Though Cliff Martinez was already an established film composer thanks to works like his scores to Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape and Traffic, his music for Nicholas Winding Refn's 2011 hit Drive earned him a new level of recognition. He reteams with Refn for 2013's Only God Forgives, a tale of corruption, sexual deviance, and familial intrigue set in Thailand. Just as Martinez depicted a nihilistic Los Angeles with his Drive score, here he incorporates pan-Asian sounds to create a world that is equally dreamy, sleazy, and menacing, particularly on the percussion showcase "Ask Him Why He Killed My Brother" and the deceptively alluring pop of Vithaya Pansringarm's "Can't Forget" and Rhatha Phongam's "Falling in Love." Elsewhere, Martinez conjures very different but equally oppressive forms of claustrophobic dread on "Do as Thou Will," which buzzes and simmers with Bernard Herrmann-esque strings, and "Wanna Fight," where synth arpeggios and a blaring pipe organ carry an almost apocalyptic weight. Martinez's music for this movie might not be as iconic as his Drive score, but Only God Forgives still finds him at the peak of his powers.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares