Monday, April 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

It's like Drive 2.0...

It's easy to draw parallels between The Place Beyond the Pines and Drive.  It doesn't help at all that Ryan Gosling plays another stunt driver that doesn't speak much.  It's also similar in that the trailer sets up a much different film that what you really get.  I know many people that were disappointed with Drive thinking it was going to be an action-oriented film, and from the trailer for TPBtP, you might think the same thing.  That's not to say that it's bad, in fact it's good film, just not what you might expect.

This might be a little spoilery, but I'll try not to reveal too much....

Pines is an overarching story, spanning over 15 years, and following the families of Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) and Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).  We begin with Luke, a stunt motorbike rider for a state fair.  He ex Romina (Eva Mendes) visits him and Luke learns he is the father of her newborn son.  Luke decides to stick around to provide for him, but eventually needs a way to make more money.  His current employer reveals he used to rob banks, so the two of them decide to start robbing several banks in the area.  He eventually crosses paths with Cross, a local Schenectady cop, during one of the robberies.  This is pretty much the story you see in the trailer, but this is really just the first act.

The second act follows Cross after stopping Glanton.  This is has made him a hero amongst his fellow officers, but he gets mixed up with some crooked cops, led by Ray Liotta.  Cross wants to expose the corruption, and uses the opportunity to gain a higher position.

We then get to the third act of the film.  The story comes full circle, but it's also the weakest part of the larger story.  Again, I can't really get into it without spoiling things, the events that play out are just way too clean and coincidental.  You can see how it's going to play out from a mile away, and ends the film on a bad note.  It doesn't help that the two characters that are the focus of the third act, played by Emory Cohen and Dane DeHaan, are the weakest and least interesting of the film.  It's not an issue with the performances, as much as it is with the story itself.  I will say, however, that Cohen speaks with a ridiculous Long Island accent, when neither of his parents do, and it just makes his character that much more unbelievable.  Also, another thing I thought was weak about the third act was they didn't do a particularly good job of aging the characters, outside of adding a few patches of grey hair here and there.

It's a shame it ends on such a bad note, because I felt the movie had been going along pretty well until that third act.  It's close to two and a half hours though, and any of these acts could have been movies all on their own.  As much as I liked the second act, it felt like they rushed through the conclusion of it, and it was already a little cliched.  I've often criticised a film for having too many writers, and this one has three: director Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder.  Each act feels like they were written by different people, and then tied loosely together.  The story is a little too ambitious for a single film.  I can't help but think this would have been great as a show or miniseries on HBO, similar to The Wire.

Pines is another one of those movies where characters don't always say much, and you see a lot of meaningful staring into the distance.  This usually means the music needs to stand out, and I thought this had a really haunting score.  I had to look up who did the music only to find out it was done by Mike Patton.  Mike Patton?  Of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More?  I never would have guessed he was involved.

I also enjoyed the aged, gritty look of the film.  I don't think they ever make a point to tell you when this movie occurs, but you get the feeling it's in the recent past.  The themes of the film though could be told in any setting though.

Pines has very good performances across the board, but I didn't think anyone was really stretching out of their comfort zones.  Again, Gosling basically plays a tatted up version of the same character he played in Drive, Ray Liotta plays another crooked cop, and Dane Dehan plays another awkward, angsty teen.  Eva Mendes only pops up here and there, and Rose Byrne is pretty much forgotten about by the third act.  That's also an issue in that there's so much story, not all of the characters are well developed.

The Place Beyond the Pines is an ambitious, well-acted story, but ultimately lets the viewer down with a disappointing third act. It's length makes it something that may be a little too much for casual viewers, even I started to squirm in my seat towards the end, but it's worth a watch...on DVD.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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