The Place Beyond the Pines is slow-burning drama that captures the audience with incredible performances from Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Dane DeHaan. The film doesn’t deliver the action the trailers promised but takes its times to make the characters matter while showing the long lasting consequences of their actions.
The film was directed by Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) – who wrote the screenplay with Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder. Along with Gosling, Cooper and DeHaan, the film stars Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, Bruce Greenwood, Emory Cohen, Harris Yulin, Robert Clohessy and Olga Merediz.
(This Review Does Contain Spoilers)
The film opens with Luke Glanton (Gosling) a tattooed motorcycle stuntman who makes his living and fame on the local carnival circuit. He has great talent riding motorcycles in the steel ring, but not many skills outside of that arena. Luke’s world is turned upside down when Romina (Mendes), a local girl he met when he was in town a year ago, tells him that he has a son. Romina is in a relationship with another man, but wanted Luke to know he was a father.
Although he barely knows Romina and has no real skills to help him find a job, Luke decides to leave the carnival circuit and try to be a father to his son, and hopefully more to Romina. He finds a place to work and live with local auto repairman Robin (Mendelsohn) – who gives Luke another way to earn the money he needs to keep his kid and win Romina.
Robin suggests Luke use his skills with a bike to start robbing banks, and the two quickly start making money. Things look to be working out for Luke until an unfortunate run-in with Romina’s boyfriend lands him in jail. Scared he will end up in jail, Robin suggests it is time to quit, but Luke wants to go even bigger – which leads to a falling out between the two friends.
On his own and using a new bike, Luke spirals out of control as a robbery goes bad, and he finds himself cornered in someone’s house with a cop knocking on the door.
Although he comes from a powerful political family and went to law school, Avery Cross (Cooper) is just a local policeman out on patrol when he runs across a fleeing Luke. Calling for back-up, he decides to enter the house where Glanton is hiding and gets a bullet for his trouble. He also becomes the local hero following the shootout.
It appears Avery’s career is about to take off, but his loyalty as a cop is questioned when he joins several other officers on a search of Romina’s house. The officers claim to have a warrant, but are really just looking for the money Luke has been saving from the bank robberies. They give Avery his cut of the money, but he doesn’t want it.
Avery tries to do the right thing and give it back to Romina, but she won’t take it back. He eventually turns the money and a tape of the cops asking him to get them cocaine from the evidence locker over to the district attorney in exchange for a place on his staff. It is a noble thing to do, but also gives him a leg up on a new career in politics.
The film then jumps 15 years to find Avery and his wife separated and their teenage son AJ (Cohen) now living with him. During his first day of high school AJ befriends Jason (DeHaan), who happens to be the son of Luke and Romina.
It doesn’t take long for the two kids to get into trouble, which AJ’s father gets him out of and for Jason to figure out who Avery and AJ are. This puts Jason on a collision course with Avery and possibly spiraling down the same path of his father.
The Place Beyond the Pines has some problems (mostly in the somewhat slow pacing) and does start to drag a bit when it jumps 15 years. The audience is rewarded for their patience with brilliant performances from Cooper, Gosling and especially DeHaan.
Gosling seems to do his best work when he isn’t given a lot of dialogue to say and instead allowed to develop the character subtly. Despite his tattooed appearance, Luke has instant charisma and the audience quickly likes the character due to the way he wants to provide for his son and Romina.
However, Luke is also capable of extreme violence – which becomes apparent when he attacks Romina’s boyfriend and in the robberies. Gosling plays the two sides of the character perfectly and keeps the audience hooked on the film.
Cooper is a great blend of the good guy wanting to do right and the guy who eventually sells out his own beliefs to get ahead in his political career. He didn’t ask to become a hero and he truly tries to do the right thing in his situation.
When it appears an impossible task, he cuts a deal with the local district attorney and follows in his father’s footsteps. It is a decision that eventually costs him his marriage and his son.
DeHaan, who was equally brilliant in Chronicle, is tragic in this film. The scenes with his family show that Jason is a good kid, even if he gets in trouble from time to time. He knows some of the history with his real father, and after meeting AJ goes looking for more answers.
The search leads Jason to Robin’s door who reveals what happened to his father and who was responsible for it. This knowledge sends him to Avery’s door with plans to kill him.
The Blu-ray looks and sounds solid on Blu-ray with a slight grain that matches the grit of the story. The bonus material includes extended and deleted scenes, a look at the making of the film, and commentary.
Although A Place Beyond the Pines has some pacing issues, the film is worth taking the time to watch thanks to the great performances of its ensemble cast. The film has a rich story and characters that will leave you talking about long after the end credits roll.
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