The sins of fathers are revisited upon the sons in Derek Cianfrance’s doom-laden triptych, which reunites the award-winning writer-director with his Blue Valentine star, Ryan Gosling.
The Place Beyond The Pines is a slow-burning meditation on crime and punishment, which treats the morally flawed characters with sensitivity, never condemning them for their reckless and sometimes immoral actions.
Violence begets more violence, dishonesty sows the seeds of guilt and regret; no one escapes the melee unscathed.
Cianfrance’s penchant for intimate, emotionally raw scenes serves him well here too and he elicits eye-catching performances, particularly from Gosling, which paper over the cracks in his haphazard plotting.
The ambition and scope of this picture far exceeds Blue Valentine, which chronicled the breakdown of a marriage in painful close-up.
However, for all of the sinewy plot threads and frenetic action sequences, including bank robberies and a high-speed motorcycle chase through a cemetery, The Place Beyond The Pines never quite revs its engine at top speed.
Fearless motorcyclist Luke Glanton (Gosling) is part of a stunt show in a travelling circus.
He moves from town to town, and potentially from girl to girl, without ever laying down roots.
By chance, Luke learns that he has fathered a son by one former conquest, Romina (Eva Mendes), who has found herself a boyfriend, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), to provide stability for the infant.
Luke plots to supplant Kofi as the man of the house and joins forces with a mechanic called Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) to raise the necessary cash by robbing banks.
Luke gets a taste for life on the wrong side of the law and Robin warns his partner-in-crime to slow down: “If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder.”
Enterprising cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is in the right place at the right time to apprehend Luke during a botched robbery, and 15 years later, the men’s wayward offspring, AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane DeHaan), are flung together with violent consequences.
The Place Beyond The Pines is impeccably crafted and Mike Patton’s orchestrations beautifully underscore the inner turmoil.
Gosling scorches every frame with his daredevil’s simmering rage and he catalyses fiery screen chemistry with Mendelsohn, joking at one point: “Not since Hall & Oates has there been such a team.”
Female protagonists including Avery’s wife (Rose Byrne) do not fare so well, which is disappointing after the rich characterisation of Blue Valentine.
The 140-minute running time sometimes feels like more of an indulgence than dramatic necessity.
The film’s middle section, which wallows in the familiar mire of corrupt cops and their despairing wives, sags noticeably and to tie up the loose ends in the concluding chapter, Cianfrance hurries to an overly neat epiphany.