Movies: "The Place Beyond the Pines" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Movies: "The Place Beyond the Pines"

The title is confusing, sounding perhaps like some teen horror movie, but it’s actually the Mohawk name for Schenectady, NY, where this complex, well-made film takes place.

It opens with a bravura steadicam shot worthy of Martin Scorsese, as we follow motorcycle stunt rider Luke (a blond, heavily tattooed Ryan Gosling) through a crowded fairground.  (The cinematography is by Sean Bobbitt, who delivers several more boffo set-pieces along the way, including a jumpy police chase.)


As it turns out, Luke is an unwitting daddy.  The mother is Romira (Eva Mendes), with whom Luke had hooked up when the carny came through town the year before.  But now she has a new man in her life: Kofi (a terrific Mahershala Ali).  Luke wants to provide for his year-old son and get Kofi out of the picture, but sees no other way to make serious money than to rob some local banks.  This can’t go right.


And this is where the movie takes on a whole new perspective.


We now meet a savvy young police officer named Avery (Bradley Cooper), who also has a year-old son.  After he’s wounded in the line of duty, he is hailed as a local hero.  But when his fellow cops draw him into their corrupt practices, he tries to blow the whistle on them.  And that’s where he runs afoul of Deluca, a senior investigator (Ray Liotta, always great).  This will lead to a terrifying drive into the dark woods outside town.


But soon we jump ahead fifteen years.


Now, Luke and Avery’s sons (Dane DeHaan, who will play Harry Osborn in the upcoming “Spiderman” movie and Emory Cohen, Leo Houston in TV’s “Smash” ) are both high school students, both of them with fathers hiding dark secrets.  In their own ways, both will replay the past scenes we have already witnessed.  


So what we have here is a profound look at parents and sons and the generational legacy of violence, performed by a highly-talented cast and shot by a brilliant cameraman.  It runs two and a half hours in length, but this is more a novel than a movie, comparable, perhaps, to David Cronenburg’s “A History ofViolence.”


“The Place Beyond the Pines” was co-written and directed by Derek Cianfrance, whose earlier films include “Blue Valentine,” also with Ryan Gosling, and several hip-hop bios.  (His fellow writers were Ben Coccio and Darius Marder.)  The compelling music was overseen by Sean Bobbitt, and includes songs by Bruce Springsteen and the Cryin’ Shames. 


The movie is rated R for violence, language, drug use, sex and overall adult themes.   I give it a B-Plus.  

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