If You Ride like Lightening, You’re Going to Crash like Thunder – The Place Beyond The Pines Review

Two hours and twenty minutes of a tattooed, motorcycle riding Ryan Gosling? Yes please! 

Those were our only thoughts heading into the eOne pre-screen for The Place Behind the Pines last night. And really, those were the only thoughts we needed, as these days, once Gosling’s name is attached to something, there’s a pretty great chance that we’re going to enjoy it.

The film opens on Gosling’s abs. Seriously. He’s pumping himself up for his stunt show that night in the Globe of Death at the funfair that his character, Luke, is currently touring with. We follow the sweeping camera as it tails him across the fair and onto his bike for the jaw dropping and dangerous stunt that sets the scene for what is Luke’s unique skill: stunt driving. 

This particular night, however, the funfair has returned to the small town of Schenectady, a town we quickly find out that Luke hasn’t been to in over a year, when he last saw a woman name Romina (Eva Mendes).

He still remembers her, even though their time together was supposed to just be a fling, and after discovering that she’s raising their son, his harboured guilt and parental responsibility pushes him to quit his stunt driving job to stay put and try and provide for his family. To try and do what is right. But the minimum wage job he landed after impressing a mechanic with his driving skills just doesn’t cut it and soon enough, Luke and the mechanic are robbing banks.

That pretty much sums up the first part of the film, a film which slowly transitions throughout into three distinct parts; your bank robber thriller, your cop story and then the coming of age adolescent film, or basically the repercussions of all the former mistakes playing out on the next generation. 

The blurred line as part one evolves into part two is where we first meet Bradley Cooper as officer Avery Cross. He stumbles onto Luke’s last heist and jumps right into a car chase through narrow alleys after Luke loses the cops by speeding through a cemetery and bypassing a barricade. Apparently inspired by Cops and America’s Most Wanted car chases, this is one of the more adrenaline filled scenes in an otherwise sombre movie. 

Avery now crosses into the limelight and the film shifts to focus on his struggle with being dubbed a hero and the impact of what taking down Luke has had on Luke’s family and his own family. He can’t even look his own child in the eye without thinking of how he’s deprived Luke’s boy of his father.

No cop movie is complete without the corrupt dirty cop, in this case played by Ray Liotta, who pops up to bully Avery into swiping evidence from the evidence room to plant on criminals and get the big arrest. Not sure if this entire tangent was necessary, it tests Avery’s morals and plagues him with additional guilt and emotional struggles, but other than the heartbreaking scene that brings Avery into Romina’s house and puts Luke’s child in his arms, this sagging middle could have been excluded.

However, it does pave the way for Avery to shed his cop persona and find his true calling, which plays out as the secondary story in the third part, which jumps fifteen years later to Luke’s son Jason (Dane DeHaan) and Avery’s boy AJ (Emory Cohen) becoming fast friends in high school, with their father’s torrid history pressing down hard on their heels creating huge waves in their lives, whether they realize it or not. This eventually leads to the climax of the film, circling back around to the beginning and forcing everyone to face their demons head on.

The Place Behind the Pines is clearly an actor driven film. Everyone cast plays a powerful role in creating the haunting, detail driven story and Gosling and Cooper are at their best, emoting their deep seeded pain with the slightest of actions. 

The fresh faces of DeHaan and Cohen have big shoes to fill, but both show they might grow into forces to be reckoned with by successfully mirroring their elder counterparts. DeHaan especially, who brings Gosling’s brooding smoothly into his character, leaving no doubt that Luke’s blood runs deep within his veins. 

That sentiment, of course, is one of the overall things to take away from the movie. How destined are we to follow in the footsteps of those who came before us? How deep does that blood run? If the closing shot of Jason kick starting a motorcycle for the first time and riding off into the horizon is any indication, it would seem that the cone doesn’t fall too far from the pine.

The Place Beyond The Pines opens in theatres Friday. The run time may seem daunting, but the film draws you in enough that you won’t be watching the clock, making this movie a welcome distraction from your own life.

Images from google images