A long-overdue recommendation of a double-bill with Winding Refn’s Drive, Derek Cianfrance’s (Blue Valentine) three-act drama packs three movies into one; the robberies, corruption, chases and shoot-outs are not the main draw; this is a character drama of lost souls and broken families, with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in some of their best work.
Act One: sideshow motorcycle ace Luke (Gosling – Drive, Blade Runner) turns to risky, amateurish bank robberies to support his girlfriend and child; trapped in a shoot-out with police patrol man Avery (Cooper – American Hustle, The Hangover) it is the ambitious cop who comes out injured but victorious into a hero’s media frenzy.
Gosling is the bad-boy, strutting, chain-smoking, drifter, son of a long-dead bank robber returning to an old and run-down home town, and making a life-changing decision to stand by his infant son as a mechanic robbing banks on the side. It’s a charismatic portrayal of a capable young man on the wrong end of life’s many iniquities. Gosling excels as a tragic hero seeking redemption, doing the wrong things for the right reasons with inevitable consequences.
Act Two sees the ambitious law graduate and son of a respected ex-judge Avery turning his fame to opportunity by bringing down the corrupt cadre of local cops – led by an immoral and very much to type Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, of course) with Avery aiming to use his graft-busting record, pedigree and his young family, as well as his cynically shaped reputation, to gain high office.
Act Three moves on some fifteen years to focus on the two teenage sons, Jason and AJ, as contrived high-school classmates dealing drugs and getting up to no good. It’s a matter of time before Jason discovers the truth about their fathers and sets about his revenge.
Tense, engrossing, highly literary and cine-literate in theme and content, The Place Beyond the Pines rattles through the saga of dysfunctional families at break-neck speed without ever seeming rushed. It’s both adrenaline-charged and quietly contemplative; it has action serving many-layered character studies throughout the entire cast, not only the two leads at their best, but the young actors playing their sons – Dane DeHaan (Valerian) and Emory Cohen (Brooklyn) and the supporting cast including Eva Mendes and Ben Mendolsohn (Slow West, Rogue One).
There aren’t many movies I call ‘unmissable’; The Place Beyond the Pines is one. RC
The Place Beyone the Pines (2012)
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writers: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Runtime: 2 hr. 21 min
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendez, Ben Mendelsohn, Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen