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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)


All you need is a little hug and support from daddy, and you won’t start robbing banks.

Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist at the circus who returns to an upstate town where he meets up with a former fling of his (Eva Mendes), only to find that she has a baby of his. In need to support his child and soon-to-be family, Luke decides to start robbing banks and pulling off heists with a buddy of his (Ben Mendelsohn). After this, we see the cop who runs into a problem with Luke, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), and how he deals with the corrupt cops in his jurisdiction, while also keeping his head afloat. And we also see two kids, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), meet up together in high school, develop a friendship, and realize that there may be more between them that they never thought was possible.

Not only is this movie hard to describe with it’s synopsis, but it’s also even harder than hell to review it. Why? Well, it’s one of those flicks that just so happens to be built on the idea of it’s twists, it’s turns, and it’s surprises, which therefore means, any type of spoiling of those said twists, turns, or surprises, would not only be a crime against me as a critic, but a crime against you as readers. Also, it’s pretty damn hard to review, because I still don’t know how or what I still feel about it all.

What made me think this flick was going to be close to the second-coming of Christ, was not just the kick-ass trailer or the wonderful reviews it’s been getting so far, but was because of it’s director: Derek Cianfrance. Many people know the dude from his directorial-debut, the perfect date movie, Blue Valentine, and know that the guy has a knack and flair for telling an effective, compelling story just by using characters, plot, details, and dialogue. That’s it, and it’s nothing more. That’s why when it came to him tackling a flick that was like a mixture of the Godfather and the Town, I had no problem with it all, mainly because the guy seems like he knows what he’s doing and seems like he’d do anything that’s far from being deemed “conventional” or “predictable”. Granted, we’ve only seen him do one movie so far, but if that’s the consensus the guy has to work on: it’s pretty damn solid, I”d have to say so for myself. Sadly, this movie doesn’t come close to hitting his last. Sadly indeed.

Ryan Gosling: stackin' his money, layin' low, and chillin'.

Ryan Gosling: stackin’ his money, layin’ low, and chillin’.

But without jumping down it’s neck about the bad, let’s get into the good that will most likely lead into the bad. Rather than jumping back-and-forth from story-to-story without ever making it clear as to what the hell’s going on or how are these peeps’ paths going to cross next, we get three stories, that are told in their own, separate formats, without barely any interruptions at all. The first story is about Luke and how he handles being a daddy, but also a bank robber at the same time. Not only is this the most exciting story out of the three, but it’s also the best. The main reason being because it’s filled with so much energy, entertainment, tension, suspense, and emotional heart, that it gets you ready for what you think you’re about to witness. You automatically think that this whole movie is going to play-out like this first story where we all get all the action and flair, but still some grounded-sense of reality and depth, but that’s not how it all plays out.

Instead of doing the smart thing and keeping up with this sense of intensity, Cianfrance takes the film down a notch and keeps it grounded in the sense that we are watching a movie, and a tad predictable one at that. After we switch gears over to Cross’s story, we start to see the movie delve more into the conventional-side of itself where we see police corruption, people with badges doing mean things, and worst of all, Ray Liotta playing a sincerely, despicable human-being. He’s good at it, but can’t we put Tommy Vercetti up to something else nowadays. How about a role as an inspirational father-figure that does sensible acts for the rest of society? Huh? Not buying it? Oh well, at least I tried.

Anyway, where this flick takes a turn for the worse is not just because it begins to get, dare I say it, generic, but because it seems so obvious. Without telling you exactly what happens or how, there are certain elements of the plot that seem to be so predictable, that it gets to the time of where I could literally pin-point exactly who knew who, how they knew them, and how they were going to tell each other how they knew one another. It got to be a bit of annoyance and seemed more like Cianfrance took the idea of conveniences between two characters, as a way to show us that there’s a twist coming up, or something that we don’t seem to expect, but yet; we do.

That’s not to say that the whole film is like this, because as a matter of fact, most of it is damn good I have to say. There are moments where I was literally on-the-edge-of-my-seat without any other thought or idea that would take me away from this movie, anywhere near my head, and it completely compelled me. And that’s not just the Gosling parts, that’s the whole movie and it surprised me with what Cianfrance was able to bring up next, and how. The guy doesn’t depend on his dialogue here as much as he did with his last flick, but the atmosphere and mood is still there to mess with you and because of that, I have to still give the guy kudos for always allowing us to set our sights on something worth watching here. Can’t say that about many film makers who churn-out a movie a year, but thankfully, I can say it about this dude.

Same one from Hangover?

Same car from Hangover?

The problem is, after two hours and thirty minutes (yes, that’s how long it is), I was still left with an idea in my head: what the hell was that all about? The ideas and themes of there being issues between a father and a son, how we all look out for one another, and how hard it is to stay true to yourself in a world of evil and hate, are abundantly clear and here, and hit us in the face as much as beers to an alcoholic, but never seem to be worth the wait for. Honestly, when all of these stories do finally get the chance to come together, make some sense, and have us make up our minds on what to think of, it feels like a bit of a waste, mostly because nobody really solves anything. Gosling’s story ends a bit too quickly for us to feel like his life’s problems are solved, Cooper’s goes on and on without any clear happiness in sight, and the final story seems like it was all made for us to see how tension still arises, even as the new generations come alive.

It made no sense to me as to why this flick was named the way it was. The Pines definitely serve some sort of metaphor for each of these characters and the way they go about their business, but it didn’t seem reasonable. Certain things are said, and are left unsaid, but they never felt right. As the film continued to go on and on, these characters begin to pull off acts and stunts that not only seem unreasonable, but almost stupid. I get that people can deal with grief and sadness in all sorts of ways, but there comes a point in this flick where it just doesn’t make sense any more and feels like instead of dealing with real human-beings that have feelings, emotions, and a sense of right and wrong, we are dealing with a bunch of wacked-out peeps that act solely on a gut-feeling of anger and violence, without rhyme or reason. There are people out there who live like this, but in a flick like this, it didn’t seem right and didn’t make sense when you take the whole ending into actual consideration. If none of this makes sense to you now, please, go and see this movie and realize that there is a message to what I’m saying, as confusing and as bum-fucked as I may sound.

Thankfully, the ones that hold this flick together is the more-than-able cast of heavy-hitters that do what they do best: be compelling, no matter who it is that they are playing. The person from this cast that I think of the most when I say that, is without a doubt Ryan Gosling as Handsome Luke. Gosling not only uses that innate-likeability to his favor here, but also shows us that he still has the able chance to still scare the sheets off of us, and never know whether we can root for him, or boo him. Gosling has what it takes to make this character work and makes him the most fascinating out of them all, mostly because he strives to be more than just a convention: he actually has a beating-heart that doesn’t always make the right decision every step of the way, but at least tries to make up for them.

Eva Mendes plays his sugar-bunny that’s good, in probably the most-dramatic and compelling role we have ever seen her play before. Not only does Mendes do a perfect job at being able to not look hot or sexy, as hard as that may be for her, she also never forgets to remind us that this is a troubled and lonely woman, that we never lose sympathy for. Ben Mendelsohn is also a butt-load of fun and joy to watch as his buddy, a former-robber who helps him out nowadays, but don’t be fooled: this guy has a mean-streak to him that shows in a despicable-way.

Reminds me of the type of kids I'd hang out with in school. Except they didn't look like Leo DiCap. I did....

Reminds me of the type of kids I’d hang out with in school. Except they didn’t look like Leo DiCap. I did….

Bradley Cooper is great as Avery Cross, the cop with a heart. Cooper really does well at being the type of guy we can feel for and trust, even when he doesn’t seem to do the right thing, and makes you understand why the guy has such a hard problem to think for himself, or take matters into his own hands. He gets to be a bit of a self-righteous dick by the end of this thing, but no matter what, he always stayed true to his character, his motivations, and what he strives for in life. Rose Byrne plays his wife, that I wouldn’t say is still in dullsville here, but doesn’t seem to have much to do other be a chick that never stops complaining about how he’s a cop and always has the chance of dying on the job. You did marry him, didn’t you? So why the ‘eff you bitchin’ at him?!? Let a guy do his job and get that money, money!

Lastly, the performances from Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen as the two kids that meet-up in school, is good in the way that it paints an interesting portrait of what it’s like to meet someone, and not have any idea what to expect from them, but that’s about as much as I can tell you right there. Just know this, DeHaan is great and definitely uses that angst-fueled look to his advantage, and know that Cohen tries to do the same, but his character is too much of a dick for us to really care about him at all. Okay, I think you know enough by now. Time for me to shut up and just go the hell home.

Consensus: With a more-than-reliable cast, suspenseful mood, well-written characters, and interesting plot-changes, The Place Beyond the Pines never loses focus on it’s story or what it’s trying to convey about it’s character, but loses grip with reality and begins to get more and more theatrical and obvious as it goes along. No matter what, you will feel compelled by this, but it starts to shy-away sooner than later.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lucky-ass baby.

Lucky-ass baby.

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34 responses to “The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

  1. calebstevens98 March 29, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Not really what I was hoping to read, Dan. This looked like it would be by far the best cinema effort so far in 2013, and it definitely looked anything but predictable. Maybe the trailer was just a bit too good, and it got people like me just a bit too excited. I’m still looking forward to it, but a 7.5 for this film is disappointing news.

  2. Mark Walker March 29, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Good write-up here Dan. I was hoping for a little more positivity but I’ll lower my expectations now. Hopefully that will stand me in good stead when I go into this.

  3. ckckred March 29, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I’ve been hearing mixed reviews of this film but I’m still very excited to see this. I loved Drive and Blue Valentine, so I’m really looking forward to see Ryan Gosling in another film. Nice review.

  4. filmhipster March 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I’m so jealous you saw this. A little disappointed about the score though, I was hoping that this was going to be much better. Still, I’ll have a watch.

  5. Issy R. March 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Great review. This is one I definitely want to see.

  6. The Phage March 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    Echoing everyone else here Dan! I was hoping for a stellar review, but I’ll ratchet back a bit. Glad to hear Bradley Cooper’s on form though. Surely worth checking out just for that!

  7. Mr Rumsey March 29, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Ahh… OK I’ll make my expectations a little less over the top now then. Still sounds good though!

  8. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop March 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    To repeat what everyone else is saying, I was hoping for a little more but I’m still quite looking forward to this. Nice review Dan.

  9. Brian H March 29, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Great review Dan! I really wanted to watch this one but none of my local theatres are playing it.

  10. Mark Hobin March 30, 2013 at 4:39 am

    This is one of my most eagerly anticipated movies of the year. So glad to see you enjoyed it.

  11. Hunter March 30, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I won’t get this till next week, but yeah. I hoped it was going to be better. I didn’t read your whole review, just the bottom, but nice job.

  12. Hypersonic55 March 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I’ve heard a lot about this film from critics that got to see it early last year and there was loads of people going on about it, especially when it comes to Ryan Gosling. I’m curious to see what all the hype is about.

  13. Lights Camera Reaction April 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Aaah! I’m seeing this on the 12th April. I’m so excited.

  14. monster1711 April 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I can’t wait to see this. Nice review man and great site, I am now following. I just started my own blog and would love it if you could check it out. Hope you like what you see!

  15. Morgan R. Lewis April 2, 2013 at 6:24 am

    This sounds like it has an interesting story to it at least. I have a feeling I’ll probably wait til it hits home video, forget about it, come across it some day and say “Hey, wasn’t this supposed to be all right?” :D Thanks for the rundown, Dan.

  16. Travis April 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Great Review. I’ve been looking forward to this but it isn’t playing anywhere around “these parts”. As far as Gosling goes, I can’t wait for “Only God Forgives”. Loved “Drive”.

  17. Chris April 12, 2013 at 6:28 am

    Nice review, Dan, and I can agree with a lot of what you’re saying here. Out of the performances, while Gosling was great, I was personally most impressed by Bradley Cooper. The constant conflict he was living with came through so phenomenally in his performance, in a way that felt very real and never overplayed. Very impressed by him, and the whole cast, too. But yeah, this is one of those movies where it’s gonna take me a bit to let it sink in before I can really pinpoint my own thoughts on it, though I do know that I did like what I saw here for the most part.

  18. Steven April 14, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Yes, DeHaan was really great … I liked the film overall, but it seemed like it has a structural problem in terms of timing emotional beats. Without trying to reveal any spoilers, I think the three interconnected stories could have and should have been told in parallel – not in linear sequence. But I don’t get paid to write screenplays, so …

  19. Pingback: Place Beyond the Pines Review: Sins of the Father | Rorschach Reviews

  20. george vossler May 6, 2013 at 2:28 am

    the movie was supposed to be a “greek tragedy,”at least that was the director’s aim,but where is the tragedy when only one of the fathers is killed and somehow the other father and the 2 sons survive.one wins the political office for which he was running,his worthless son stands on the victor’s podium with dad,and the dead father’s son buys a motorcycle and drives off somewhere.and all the inconsistencies.for example,why did jason’s mother come to the carnival if she did not want jason’s father back in their lives? i am not a director,i do not write screenplays,but if i was,the story would have been far darker,ending,with all four dead in a sort of the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons.now that would have been a greek tragedy
    worthy of whoever the muse of greek tragedy is.

  21. Pingback: LAMBScores: Tom Cruise's Scary Place Beyond The Pines | The Large Association of Movie Blogs

  22. Phil November 3, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Well done with this review Dan, great read. I thought that TPBTP had many good ingredients but the pace and structure meant that it never gathered any momentum and I was left not caring about any of the characters. I thought the overall message was lazy too. The best thing in there was Gosling’s brilliantly awful tattoos. All the best, Phil.

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