Schenectady, New York will need to look elsewhere for a police recruitment film. The corruption shown in “The Place Beyond The Pines” is casual and institutional, but also fictional.
But that’s not where we start. A long and loving scene follows Luke (Ryan Gosling) as he walks through an adoring mob to perform motorcycle stunts. Luke learns he has a son, leaves the travelling show and finds work with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn).
Meanwhile. Avery (Bradley Cooper) is a policeman. Really, the less you know about this tale of how they meet and influence each other, the more you will enjoy this film. Even watching the trailer offers a few spoilers, as you may predict a few of the assorted twists.
If you have seen director Derek Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine”, you will recognise that he wants to make big psychological dramas. This can make for quite a few tough scenes to watch.
The motorcycle stunts and chases are really distinctive. There are reminders of “Rich Man, Poor Man” and other family dramas.
At 140 minutes, this movie outstays its welcome by about half an hour.
The first half rivets you. The look of the countryside around Schenectady is just beautiful and the town itself looks very pretty and welcoming.
Schenectady is a variant of a Mohawk word, meaning “beyond the pine plains”. Hence, the title.
The story manages to suggest Greek tragedy from the moment Romina (Eva Mendes) reminds Luke they had a fling.
Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are both extraordinary actors and they control their scenes with great style and poise. Eva Mendes is also excellent as Romina.
It all feels like a much weaker and more predictable tale as you move forward in time 15 years and meet up with the sons of the fathers. While Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen are both fine young actors, they fail to pack the punch of Gosling and Cooper.
The viewer is meant to wonder whether families are doomed to repeat their patterns.
“Place” wastes the undoubted talents of Ray Liotta, Harris Yulin, Bruce Greenwood and Rose Byrne.
Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography and Michael Ahern’s art direction give everything a very distinctive look.
All in all, it’s good to see a film driven by plot and character that is trying to give a message. But too much is packed in. It’s enjoyable and original in many ways, but it ultimately packs in too much to achieve its lofty aims.
A very full Stratford East Picturehouse audience stayed attentive, but I could see people fidget with their phones during the last section.