Larry’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Place Beyond The Pines is one fickle beast.....
Derek Cianfrance has created a very unique and compelling story here that rides the lightning for the first half but crashes and burns in the second. If you break up the film into 3 distinct parts and rate their quality it would probably go:
Part 1: Fucking great.
Part 2: Pretty good.
Part 3: holyshitwhatisthis
If the first two parts were the two Godfather movies,(not saying the Bradley Cooper storyline in this film is comparable to Godfather Part II) then the last part would be Godfather Part III.
Alright. You get it. The last third of this film is filled with problems. It technically shouldn't have existed. The first two parts deal with Ryan Goslings character Luke and his dirt bike bank robbing streak that puts him on a collision course with Bradley Cooper as the young hotshot cop Avery. I would suggest avoiding spoilers for this film because The Place Beyond The Pines takes many twists and has plenty of moments that come crashing down on your head. Luke is a tattooed, carnival daredevil whose expertise lies in riding anything with two wheels. Goslings character here is well written and has many dimensions. Seeing him covered in tattoos, a cigarette dangling from his lips and wearing a cutoff Metallica shirt is a sight to behold. I loved his character and he has many different scenes that range anywhere from him in a violent rage to him sitting in the back of a church weeping like a baby. Gosling pulls off the depth great and when the mysterious badass Luke finds out that his old fling (Eva Mendes) has a son that is his, he turns to using his skills to illegally provide for his infant son. Complications arise when his old girlfriend refuses to leave her current man and Luke's bank robbery partner has a change of heart. Many scenes carry a hefty emotional punch and there are some genuinely tense scenes that are exciting and invigorating. I only wish the rest of the film was like the beginning.
When the Bradley Cooper storyline takes over, the film begins the sharp downhill dive. It's still decent because we feel the weight of Ryan Gosling's actions carry over from the first part. The repercussions of his crime spree shake the characters and have a permanent effect on the community. Bradley Cooper takes an unorthodox role as a wounded and heartfelt cop that is coping with the stresses that his work brings home. His transformation and character development is just as good as Goslings but in a different way entirely. The rest of the movie turns away from the tense robbing scenes and violent outbursts in favor of trying to offer up rich thematic material. It works alright for a while but at a certain point it becomes pretty tedious. We get the point early on that actions have great consequences, people sometimes naturally fall into the same line as their parents and fixing things sometimes breaks things further. But by the end these themes seem nailed torturously into your brain. At one point I saw a man in front of me start playing games on his phone. The last third of the film lost him. I had a full bladder and it almost lost me too. There is a point in the third act (set 15 years after the events of the 1st act) where a kid is riding through the winding woodsy back roads just as Ryan Gosling did 15 years prior. Sad music is playing. The camera follows him from the air capturing the isolated scenery. The film should've ended there. It brought things full circle without pounding it into out heads. But the film managed to be about 20 minutes longer.
The Place Beyond The Pines was a gritty and heartfelt crime drama that captured emotionally scarred and physically powerful characters in a barren and woodsy setting. The late nineties small town setting is done well and some of the most effective scenes come from characters riding through the dirt trails of the massive forests and scenes that display the dilapidated rural small town living style. This fringe of society film is filled with large characters and a lush setting that pumps the films veins full of lightning. It begins running out of power in the middle and by the end it is completely tapped. It also doesn't hell that the film narratively takes some questionable turns that drag the film out. It will definitely make your ass numb. But when you think back, you will ultimately appreciate the film as a whole. I loved it despite being frustrated at some parts. Good parts and bad. It's still a very ambitious film and is a great second feature from Derek Cianfrance.
I think I'm going to go dig out some old Metallica shirts and invest in a dirt bike.
I promise I won't rob any banks...