The Place Beyond The Pines

WRITTEN BY: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
DIRECTED BY: Derek Cianfrance
STARRING: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn
RATING: 2.5 stars

The Place Beyond The Pines is more than two hours long, which is totally unnecessary. It required some major editing because it was often far too slow and boring. However, it was also an intricately woven tale that provides a good moral lesson. It is perhaps a little too ambitious, but the intention is there. Director/co-writer Derek Cianfrance has worked hard to get the most out of his cast and put a microscope on parenting and the idea of masculinity, examining how important it is for boys and young men to have a strong male influence in their lives.

It is hard to explain the plot without giving too much away, so I will have to keep it vague to avoid spoilers. The film is basically told in three acts. The first involves Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) who works in a travelling carnival as a motorcycle stuntman. He quits his job when he finds out a one night stand with Romina (Eva Mendes) has resulted in a son named Kevin. Luke wants to be a father but Romina has moved on with Kofi (Mahershala Ali). Luke begins living and working with a mechanic named Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) who convinces him to start robbing banks. But Luke gets overzealous with the crime, which brings rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) into his life. The second act deals with Avery's experiences in the police force while the third act jumps forward 15 years and brings the story to its climax.

Gosling is fast-becoming an impressive actor. Forget the swoon factor with so many women gushing over his charisma and six-pack – there is actually a good actor underneath that superficiality. He proves again in this film – after his previous collaboration with Cianfrance on Blue Valentine – that he is willing to take on challenging roles. On the other hand, I am still unconvinced that Cooper has any lasting power. I'm still scratching my head at his Oscar nomination and his performance in this film did little to change my opinion of him as anything more than a mediocre actor. Mendelsohn seems to be popping up in everything these days, which is fine with me. He is as great as always. Mendes has never impressed me as an actress or a great beauty but her performance is fair. Ray Liotta has a small role as yet another seedy character, which is a shame because he is capable of so much more. I would have liked to have seen more of Rose Byrne too as Avery's wife. Two of the better performances come from young actors Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen who play key roles in the third act.

The Place Beyond The Pines is an interesting film, but it is not quite as complicated and layered as it intended to be.