The Place Beyond the Pines

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Rated R    2 1/2 stars out of 5


Pines_poster“The Place Beyond the Pines” sounds like a nice place for a picnic. Turns out it’s the Mohawk to English translation for Schenectady, and the title for the movie I saw today. Now in wider release, the movie stars Ryan Gosling (Drive) as bad boy Luke and Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) as rookie cop Avery.

Luke is a carnie with a motorcycle act who travels from town to town. When he revisits Romina (Eva Mendes from Hitch), whom he hasn’t seen in a year, he finds out he has a 3-month-old son. Romina has moved on and has a new man in her life. Although his son is doing fine and is in a happy and loving home, Luke figures the best thing for him to do is rob some banks so he can provide for this child. He is pretty good at this with his speedy motorcycle getaway, until the rookie cop, Avery trips him up.

I was expecting some kind of epic battle between these two. That is what the trailer seemed to tease, and what the movie did not deliver. Oddly enough, that is not what bothered me. I was glad the movie swerved away from cliché. Where it went was somewhere between a Greek tragedy and a Shakespearean goat rope. It wasn’t about these guys, Luke and Avery. It was about what these guys did and the impact it had on their lives and the lives of their sons. This is a great setup, but the sons are pitiful people who do very little to engage the viewer. The whole movie was very plot-driven, and by that I mean the writer had the plot all laid out – and the actors executed it. Nothing seemed to come as a result of on-screen character development or pure character desires.

I know Gosling is cute ladies – I get that – but he tries too hard to be Steve McQueen. Cooper shows off his acting chops and carries the last half of the picture. I wanted to see more from Eva Mendes, and not in the way that you think. She has done some amazing work in the past, but here she is relegated to being the mom who seems embarrassed and ashamed by everything – including her role.

The movie was good at times, even gripping for a moment or two, and then it fell into a slice of life in the usual poor man versus lawman drama. There was great potential here. I walked out of the theater thinking this was probably a great book that let you really see inside the minds of these characters and how they dealt with conflicting motives.  From what I could see, this was never a novel, just a screenwriter’s attempt at an epic tale that came up short. This was an indie film, with no studio oversight, and I love those kinds of films. Unfortunately, sometimes, when you don’t have anybody to answer to, the script and the characters do not get fully developed. It’s so cool, and you want to just shoot it, and the result is not cool.

You can go to “The Place Beyond the Pines” if you want, but bring a snack and a blanket, because at two hours and 20 minutes you may want to nap at times. I give it 2 ½ stars out of 5 and a “Nice try.”

Tom Basham, Indie film maker and movie critic

Tom Basham, Indie film maker and movie critic

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:



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