Craig's Movie Breakdown: "The Place Beyond the Pines"


Three things to know before the movie:

1. “Pines” re-teams Ryan Gosling with director Derek Cianfrance, who he worked with on 2010’s “Blue Valentine”. His role of stuntman in this film also mirrors the actors most famous and celebrated role in 2011’s “Drive”.

2. In addition to Cianfrance, Darius Marder and Ben Coccio are credited with helping out with the screenplay. This is the highest profile film for each of them. Marder has won praise for his WW2 “stolen goods”documentary, “Loot”, winning the Los Angeles film festival prize; “Pines” marks his first screenplay. Coccio has written and directed two other films, the “school-shooting”drama “Zero Days” and coming-of-age film “The Beginner.”

3. Among the other familiar faces in this movie, Bradley Cooper, fresh off his first Oscar nomination for “Silver Linings Playbook”, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Rose Byrne (who spent five seasons going head-to-head with Glenn Close on the underrated show “Damages”), Harris Yulin, Bruce Greenwood, and Dane DeHaan, who scored in his role as Andrew Detmer in “Chronicle”, playing an angry teen with super powers. He’ll next be seen as Harry Osborn in “The Amazing Spider-man 2.”


Family again plays a strong role in Derek Cianfrance’s second feature, just where “Blue Valentine” looked at a marriage crumbling apart, “Pines” tries for the bond between father and son. For a while this feels like it’s going to be the first great movie of 2013, but then Bradley Cooper and a bunch of other characters (and oddly enough, 2 other stories) show up instead.

Ryan Gosling is Luke Glanton, a muscular, tattooed, blonde-headed stunt biker who finds out that the one-night-stand he had with Romina (Eva Mendes) a year before has resulted in a son. Filled with the need to provide but without many means to do so, he’s told by a partner (Ben Mendelsohn) of the easiness of bank robbing. He’s quite good at it, and watching him raid these banks and then tear off down the street on a motorcycle is thrilling stuff.

How far is Luke willing to go in order to provide and become apart of his family’s life? It’s an excellent jumping off point and what’s great about the Gosling performance is that it has both a longing for something better out of life, a desperate sincerity and a violent darkness. He’ll do anything, which is noble but also a little scary, both for Luke and his family. As he gets deeper and deeper into it, he’s told “if you ride like lightning, you’re gonna crash like thunder.” Unfortunately this is where the movie also crashes.

Luke crosses path’s with cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), but if you’re expecting some type of robber-vs cop film like “Heat”, that will be quickly dispelled. It will later become Avery’s movie. He’s a squeaky clean cop, and the well-mannered and moral son of a politician (Harris Yulin). He also happens to be the only good cop on a force full of corrupt ones (Ray Liotta shows up as its bullish leader), and you know what that means. Cooper isn’t bad here but the character is also too straight-arrow and the conflict he finds himself in too familiar. This is also the first corrupt cop film I can remember where one of the corrupt cops doesn't ask the undercover one if he's wearing a wire.

The last third (story) jumps ahead 15 years to the sons of both Avery (Emory Cohen) and Luke (Dane DeHaan) meeting each other. This has the potential to be both compelling and get us back on track after the distracting middle section but instead Cianfrance just uses it to find out things we already know and then end it aimlessly. I wish we could have gotten more out of Luke’s kid: Does he have the same violence in him as his father? There’s an interesting story in here about sins, guilt and the bond between father and son, but this multi-directional story fails to find it. The cast is terrific though, especially Gosling. His part of the story warrants a recommendation all on its own.