The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
“Half of a good movie doesn’t equal a good movie. It’s mathematically (and cinematically) impossible.”
GRADE: 3/5 Stars
by Richard Rey
As I googled the new movie schedule of the theatre nearest me, I was awestruck. The Place Beyond The Pines is now in theatres?! Say what?! Talk about a kid-in-a-candy-shop-moment. I Augustus Gloop’d it by immediately changing my schedule, and, for the third night in a row, trekking my way to the theatre. Pines trailers were especially appealing to me because of the hollow, echoic feeling they evoked. Birdseye view of lush forests following a man on a motorcycle backed by a well-composed porcelain overture. Wonder and awe led to what almost registered as spiritual. I’m learning more and more that trailers are misleading.
For me, it’s rare that I see a new limited release indie flick, and equally rare that I review it. I, like so many others, just don’t have the means or time with all the wide releases that come out on top of my forty-hour work week. So, to sit in a packed theater, anticipating an emotionally driven indie was a rare privilege. I wanted to relish the next 140 minutes. Take it in. Be overwhelmed. And, hell, even write a positive review afterward. Sadly, that review won’t be brought to fruition – not today, not by me.
Ryan Gosling is Luke Glanton, a stunt bike rider at a carnival in upstate New York. He is troubled, a drifter, lonely and dark. Writer-director Derek Cianfrance goes to great lengths to get you to realize that. To get you to know him.
The films start is prompted by heavy breathing over circus music and then we follow the mysterious figure past the cheering crowd to a dirt bike he mounts. This is the man we will get to know up close and personal, however gritty his life may be. Gosling’s transformation to a tatted bad boy whose core is soft-serve is completely convincing. His boyish charm reminds us of a James Dean, his unpredictably violent outbursts resemble Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. The juxtaposition is tantalizing.
When Luke finds out he has a one year old son, he will support his child and win his ex-lover back by any means necessary. After quitting his stunt driver job that would’ve taken him on tour, he’s taken in by an auto body shop owner Robin (Ben Mendelsohn, Killing Them Softly). The odd partnership eventually involves the robbery of local banks; Luke can now support his son and Robin gets his fix. These holdups are performed to damn near perfection and the ensuing chase scenes are shot wildly, many times from the first-person perspective. Luke’s adrenaline rush is ours. The pairing of Gosling with Mendelsohn is a tribute to the capabilities of Cianfrance’s ability to cast – although Gosling, like Daniel Day-Lewis, is a horse you can always bet on. The intent study of Luke’s transition from a desperate badass to a serious criminal is stymied by the entrance of a new police officer, Avery (Bradley Cooper). For the film’s sake I won’t reveal any more than that. What I will tell you is that the shift of focus to Avery is a distraction to the film’s most colorful character in Luke.
Cooper mishandles the part of the broken officer, failing to completely commit himself as he did in Silver Linings Playbook. But the commitment isn’t all he lacks; there simply isn’t enough depth and attention given to his character, by him or the writers, to make the performance an intriguing one. So how long can we sit through the life of a boring character who faces crime-thriller cliché plot-twists? Not very long. Ultimately The Place Beyond The Pines is an in-depth criminal mind study turned crooked cop flick. And that doesn’t work. While it’s hungry for success it bites off more than it can chew. The latter half is unpromising with few dramatic moments, much less tension, and a very implausible tie into the story’s first half. That said, half of a good movie doesn’t equal a good movie. It’s mathematically (and cinematically) impossible.
MPAA: Rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference
Runtime: 140 min
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Drama
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Writer: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Anthony Pizza
Theatrical Release Date: March 20, 2013 (France)