The Place Beyond the Pines ~ A Capsule Movie Review

The Place Beyond the Pines poster

The Place Beyond the Pines ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious, complex story that is in fact three interwoven stories about how people’s lives can interconnect in a way that seems like fate. It begins in the 1990s with blond-haired, tattooed bad boy Luke Glanton (played by Ryan Gosling), who is employed as a stunt motorcycle rider in a traveling carnival. We don’t know much about his past except that is probably unsavory. When he reconnects with an old girlfriend named Romina (Eva Mendes), he discovers that she has had a baby by him, a son named Jason. He wants desperately to win Romina back and to play a part in Jason’s life, but Romina has moved on. She has another man in her life and she knows that Luke is not the sort of person that anybody can depend on.

Desperate for money to prove to Romina that he can provide for her and their son, Luke turns to robbing banks with a male companion. His excellent motorcycle riding skills allow him to get away easily. He pulls off a few robberies without a hitch but, as expected, his good luck runs out. He meets his end at the hands of a young police officer named Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), who, it turns out, has an infant son about the same age as the child that Luke has fathered with Romina. Avery is injured but victorious in his violent encounter with Luke Glanton and is hailed as a hero.

We learn that Avery Cross is more than a police officer; he’s also a lawyer and the son of a distinguished judge. As a police officer, he’s exposed to a level of corruption on the police force that he can’t stomach. He uses his position as an injured hero and as the possessor of knowledge about his fellow officers to advance himself to the position of assistant district attorney. He knows how to play the game.

Fifteen years later, Avery Cross is emerging as a player in state politics. He is running for the office of attorney general and is no longer married to the mother of his son. The son, AJ, is now a pouty, mumbling teenager in high school. He meets another seemingly troubled boy at school to whom he is drawn for some reason. We learn that this boy is Jason, the son of Luke Glanton and Romina.

Jason, as a seventeen-year-old, is much like Luke Glanton, the father he never knew. He steals drugs from a pharmacy and has an explosive temper. He is going to come to a bad end. He gradually learns who AJ is and, more importantly, who AJ’s father is and the role he played in Luke Glanton’s death fifteen years earlier. He’s wired like a time bomb.

For the serious moviegoer, The Place Beyond the Pines is thoughtful, intelligent and well-written, with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged. It’s no surprise to me that it’s not playing at the multiplex in my neighborhood, where you can see all the latest G.I. Joe movies, chainsaw movies, and special effects-laden action-adventure movies. It’s the kind of movie that’s worth seeking out, wherever it might be playing, even if it’s at an “art” house in a part of the city where you’d really rather not go. (The whole time you’re watching the movie, you’re probably thinking at the back of your mind: Is my car really safe parked there?)

Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp

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