The Place Beyond The Pines is a bit of a mishmash of a film. The story starts off as a family drama about a man trying to reconnect with his estranged girlfriend and the son he never knew he had. It moves reasonably smoothly and quickly into a bank robbing action adventure movie. But it isn’t finished with it’s metamorphosis there.
Somewhat more jarringly and briefly it becomes a police drama as a young policeman reveals corruption among detectives investigating the robberies and then throughout the force. Using his knowledge of corruption as leverage he secures himself a much better job and a lot of powerful enemies.
Action is then jarringly advanced forward 15 years and the film transforms once again this time becoming part political drama and part family melodrama before finally becoming a story of teenage excess, drug abuse and bullying.
While the thread of two families and the impact their actions have on each other that joins these stories together is strong and well crafted, the individual segments just don’t mesh well together and the whole feels rather disjointed. Few of the story lines get a conclusion although we do catch up with some of the events that happened during the 15 year jump. The ending of the final segment is pretty open ended too but it does tie in nicely with the beginning of the film.
There are some great bits in this film. Ryan Gosling’s Luke is a great troubled man trying to go straight and provide for his family. His relationship with his friend and employer Robin is charming to watch even as it disintegrates. The bank robbing scenes are excellent as is watching the two men bond over their shared passions of engineering and bank robbing.
The rest of the characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Eva Mendes is good as Ryan’s estranged lover Romina but her character seems to be constantly dramatically changing her mind about who she wants to be in a relationship with, it is not surprising that Luke gets very frustrated about his role in the life of his newly found family.
Bradley Cooper’s character Avery is just thoroughly un-likeable. There is nothing really wrong with him but he has no charisma; his relationships with his wife, son and even colleagues are more or less non-existent and all he cares about is his career. This could make for an interesting character in a film that concentrated on this story line but for the relatively short and inconclusive segment that the film focuses on him it just falls a bit flat.
The final segment focuses on the children. Luke’s son Jason is obviously troubled by his past and by not knowing about his father (and later on by knowing more than he wants to). Avery’s son AJ is again thoroughly un-likeable although this time because he is a manipulative bully. Jason is played nicely and well written but some of his decisions and actions require a major suspension of disbelief but then I guess that is true of a lot of things that teenagers get up to.
This ramble has turned into a bit of a mishmash like the film itself so I guess here would be an appropriate place to end it.