Unreal Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines


I now live in a small town in upstate New York. It’s an okay life, but there’s not too terribly much going on. I can drive to get a bite to eat in Troy, or go see a movie in Colonie. Or as much as fifteen minutes away there’s a hard to pronounce town named Schenectady.

Or as the Mohawk Indians used to call it, The Place Beyond the Pines.

In truth, this film is the most exciting thing to happen in the area in well, probably forever. At least since those Mohawks ruled the land. The film landed perhaps the two most “hot right now” actors, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Throw in Channing Tatum, and you’ve got yourself a stew.

Gosling reunites with his Blue Valentine director, Derek Cianfrance, but channels his Drive character. Here he’s Luke, a tattooed motocross stunt rider turned bank robber when he realizes he has a child to support, birthed by a one-time fling, Romina (Eva Mendes).


He grows angry as she rejects his assistance and becomes more reckless during his bank runs. Eventually, one job goes bad and he finds himself running from a young officer, Avery (Bradley Cooper). The two’s interaction lasts only a moment, but changes each of their lives forever.

At a rather lengthy two hours and twenty minutes, The Place Beyond the Pines is really three movies stapled together. Gosling’s story is the first third, a tale about a bad man with a good heart trying to do the right thing by his family. Then the narrative switches to Cooper, a good man with sometimes bad ambitions who tries to survive an increasingly corrupt police department as he looks to move beyond being a simple patrolman.

The third act? Well, that’s probably better left a surprise, but suffice to say it’s the direct result of the two lead’s actions in the first portion of the film. The theme of the movie is how current actions can deeply impact the future, and decisions can come back to haunt you. Nearly every character is lost in a sea or moral ambiguity, and it’s hard to place either Gosling or Cooper into a “good guy” or “bad guy” camp. Both characters are more complex than that.


I feel like at this point in his life, Ryan Gosling is sort of making nearly every role as it was the same as his last. He pauses for three beats too long in conversation, rarely raises his voice above room temperature, and always has a sly smile at just the right moment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a character we love, but it almost seems a bit…easy for him now. The hardest part of this role was probably spending hours in makeup every morning getting his tattoos put on. Dramatically, it’s not that much of a stretch for him.

Bradley Cooper is coming down off an Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook that showed he’s a better actor than any of us expected when watching on him Alias or The Hangover. His work here again, isn’t all that much of a challenge, but he does an adequate job with the material he’s given.

The final mystery act is where things start to get a bit predictable. You aren’t expecting the narrative jump between Gosling and Cooper’s story, but once one more leap is made, you can see where things are headed. The plot starts to rely on coincidence more than it does carefully orchestrated events, though perhaps some argument about “fate” could be made.

This isn’t a heist movie, nor is it a cop drama. It’s more than either, and therefore ends up being better than the average film which uses one or the other as subject matter. It’s too long and perhaps doesn’t demand enough of its talented leads, but it’s good, and may stay with you for some time to come.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. I had heard you mention upstate NY before as your residence, but generally anything north of Westchester can be considered upstate. Now any time I see anyone resembling you I’m going to have to ask if it is you.

    Been to Flying Chicken in Troy yet, fantastic stuff man.

  2. I thought the first 1/3 of the movie (which seemed like 1/2 the movie) was far and away the best 1/3 of the movie. While I would probably tend to agree with your assessment of Gosling’s roles of late, I still think he was not overdone it. Perhaps it’s because the last movie I saw with him was ‘Lars and the Real Girl,” and before that, “Half Nelson.” I’ve seen “Drive” too, and the character was similar, but still very good. Anyway, halfway through the second third of the movie, I was eerily reminded of “Crash,” which Zack Ruskin, one of my good friends, will agree is one of the most atrocious movies to date, but that’s a whole other post. The predictability was getting laughable and I felt like the plot was becoming more and more unglued as the movie progressed. Anyway, without any spoilers, the acting was phenomenal throughout, including the last 1/3 of the movie, but as much as I loved the first third, the second two thirds just couldn’t save it. 3.5/5 is just about perfect.

  3. I hadn’t heard of this one, I’ll have to check it out. Being and upstate New Yorker myself (New Hartford) I love to see movies that take place in the area. Maybe we can be the new Hollywood. We need something to get this area out of its economic depression.

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