Monday, May 27, 2013

The Place Beyond The Pines

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Rating: R

"The Place Beyond The Pines" marks the second collaboration between Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance. Their first was 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” and this a rather remarkable follow-up. Both films are dark and somber, with lengthy, loaded pauses and disorienting handheld camera shots. Cianfrance’s screenplay is much like “Crash,” in that three seemingly separate stories (the first and third being the most interesting to me) come together for a rather ambiguous ending. The shifts between plots and time periods are rather abrupt, but the storyline stays with you long after you leave the theatre.

We first meet Luke, a blue-collar, dirty-handed stunt motorcycle driver, at a county fair. We see him do something I’ve never seen before: he mounted his bike and entered a large, circular metal cage with two other riders, to ride in loops around each other. Terrifying. Ryan Gosling is pretty believable as this character, easy to both hate and sympathize with. Unbeknownst to him, a one-night stand with Romina (Eva Mendes) leaves him with a child. Mendes is gorgeous even when she is made up to look rough. The desire to provide for his “family” leads Luke to rob banks with pal and comedic relief Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). We’re not sure how far this destructive path can go until we, or rather he, meets Avery, a cop. As baby-faced Avery, Bradley Cooper’s clean-shaven face is a nice change, but I’m still Team Gosling.

We shift here, to Avery’s storyline, as he deals with the twisted hierarchy and inner workings of the Schenectady Police Department.  As the typical “crooked gangster” character, Ray Liotta gives Avery a peek into a rather complicated gang world. When Avery chooses to rat them out, he is quickly recognized as the town hero, though he struggles with whether or not he did the right thing. This dragged on a bit too long.

Fast-forwarding 15 years, we meet Luke and Avery’s teenage sons, Jason and AJ. Hats off to Dane DeHaan (a UNCSA alum) and Emory Cohen, who is unrecognizable from his character on “Smash.” The boys meet in school, and the tension between them is frightening. Things bubble over, as AJ bullies and blackmails Jason, until they discover their, or rather their fathers' connection.

Without giving away too much, the ending is rather disturbing. It leaves you with a lot of questions and a sour taste in your mouth. But it is an insightful look into the father and son bond, and how far you'll go for your family.

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