Gosling is the only actor that’d make me watch a movie. Male or female. He fills the screen without the need for a close-up. In The place Beyond the Pines he plays a daredevil bike rider that makes his living riding in a round metal cage. He’s seen as a cool guy. People stare at him, his bleached hair, puffed-up muscles and leather jacket. The announcer calls for Handsome Luke while he puts his helmet on. All but one of his numerous tattoos are now covered, the one bellow his left eye, a knife dripping a single blood droplet. I believe each droplet stands for a person killed, in gang language. Even if I’m mistaken, it still gives colour to his violent past without the need for words.
After this brilliant introduction, some flaws emerge. Handsome Luke becomes aware he’s a father too early to get an emotional response. He sticks around, despite the fact the mother of his child lives with another man. There’s a miraculous job waiting for him in an auto-shop, but he struggles to make enough money to support a family that was never truly his. The miraculous answer is to rob banks with his “boss” who miraculously has done so before.
The potential in this movie gets spoiled by lack of consistency. The plot leaps the gaping holes it opens. Most major events and plot twists seem to be at odds with what’s happening in the movie. At one point his boss/accomplice warns him “if you ride like lightening, you’re gonna crash like thunder”. Completely of character, but useful to get a cool sounding phrase in the posters. Bradley Cooper’s character, the policeman that catches up with Luke, is driven to a place in the woods at one point, without reason for it, except that his reaction was worth capturing. He is also portrayed as a clean-cut cop who turns out to have darker secrets. If you pay attention, it’s impossible that the same character could act so incongruently. These examples show that ludicrous coincidences and actions disloyal to the characters core move the story forward. There are many more but those suffice to exemplify them.
When number one and two sexiest man in the world meet in the movie, the point of view changes. Bradley’s character more than lacking sympathy, lacks empathy. This portion of the movie yells out Serpico, but I still refuse to hear it. It has some nice nuances, Ray Liotta plays the dirty cop as few can, and there’s an exceptional dialogue at dinner. Unfortunately, they belong to a different movie.
When the point of view changes again, things improve. The kids of the two main characters unknowingly inherent their parents feuds. They are not what you’d expect them to be, and that’s good.
The first and last point of view start to piece together, but not quite and the middle one stands alone. I can see how it would work, but I can’t feel it.
Derek Cianfrance had the ingredients for a great movie, but not the ability to stir them together. A few greats scenes stand isolated, and his unassertiveness lead to a poor pay-off. It’s a shame.
I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me: