A Droid Premiere – The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)

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It’s the event film season. In this time of CGI effects, slow motion hero shots, basic storytelling and stuff blowing up real good, it’s often difficult to find a film at your local Hollywoodplex that tries for something more. A film about actual characters, who are involved in meaningful stories with insight and compelling themes. So when The Place Beyond The Pines was released last week, accompanied by favourable (often slobbering) reviews, I went out of my way to see it. I’m afraid I will be discussing the plot in some detail, so developments will be revealed. While these developments aren’t integral to the effectiveness of the film (ie. knowing them won’t ruin the film for you), I didn’t know the important one, and it wasn’t revealed in the trailer. If you read further, you’ll know. There, I’ve sufficiently covered my ass.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-PosterLuke (a bleach blonde Ryan Gosling) is a motorcycle stuntman at a travelling fair. His gig is to get inside a giant metal ball with two other stuntmen and all three ride at crazy speed. Unfortunately this is only glimpsed at the end of the opening tracking shot (involving a clever hidden cut). For curiosity sake I would have liked a better look. After the show, Luke is approached by an ex, Romina (Eva Mendes) and he discovers he has a one year old son named Jason. Wanting to be a father to the boy, he quits and takes up a job as a mechanic, working for Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). But times are tough, and you can’t support a family on minimum wage. Romina has settled with Kofi (Mahershala Ali), and Luke will have to show his worth to win her back and be involved in his sons life. Naturally, he turns to crime. With Robin as his accomplice, he begins to rob banks. But when he lashes out at Kofi and is arrested for assault, he is cut off by Romina. Luke becomes desperate. He decides to hit two banks in one day, and when Robin refuses to help, he goes it alone. Bungling the getaway, he is pursued by the rookie police officer Avery (Bradley Cooper). When Luke holds up in a house, Avery charges in and shoots him dead.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-01That’s the big plot development, and one that I didn’t expect. Ryan Gosling, name above the title and all that. But this is just a third of the way into the film. The perspective of the film then shifts on to Avery, as he recovers from a bullet wound in his leg (Luke shot back before he died), and deals with being in the spotlight as a local hero. Knowing that Luke had a son the same age as his own, he feels substantial guilt for the shooting. His marriage to Jennifer (Rose Byrne) suffers. He also becomes reluctantly involved in police corruption, when fellow officers in his department (led by Ray Liotta) shake down Romina for the stolen cash. Looking for a way out, he goes to the DA (Bruce Greenwood) and makes a deal. The son of a senator, Avery was set to become a lawyer and had passed the bar before he quit to become a police officer. In return for informing on his fellow cops, he receives a job as an Assistant DA.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-0415 years later and Avery is running for office. Divorced from Jennifer, his son AJ (Emory Cohen) moves in with him. AJ is a ginormous douchebag in need of a good kicking. Going to the local high school, AJ’s first friend is… you guessed it, Jason (Dane DeHaan). Things happen, past events resurface, and old wounds are re-opened. Blah blah blah.

This film didn’t work for me. Not after Luke is killed anyway. The first section of the film is compelling, well acted and really seems like it could go somewhere interesting. The desperate actions of a man who only wants to do good by his son, so that he can become a better man than he is, who is backed into a corner and is given a way out through crime. The repercussions of his acts could have been a thought provoking, involving and emotionally satisfying story. And this is where I thought it was going. By killing off your main character and shifting focus to a new one that was only just introduced (we first see Avery when he’s in pursuit), the screenplay by Darius Marder, Ben Coccio and the director Derek Cianfrance well and truly over-eggs the pudding.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-05If they had created characters as interesting as Luke and Robin, then the film would have rode the bump of this shift and continued on its not so merry way. Sure the theme of the film is the sins of the father blah blah, but each section of the film is less interesting than the last. So much so that I had almost no interest in the outcome of the film (apart from the hope that they would show AJ getting his head kicked in). I didn’t believe certain actions taken by Jason towards the end of the film, and found the whole situation contrived. At 140 minutes, the film is also overlong by at least 20 minutes. I’ve not seen Cianfrance’s previous film, Blue Valentine, but he’s an effective director and the robbery sequences in particular have a visceral, raw quality that seems to come naturally.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-03Despite screeching like a woman during the bank robbery scenes, Ryan Gosling puts in a very good performance. The character is interesting, and I was invested in his story. Ben Mendelsohn is also good as Robin, who is essentially a nice guy who likes Luke and doesn’t want to see him in trouble. Eva Mendes is okay, but she’s too old for the character and probably needed someone in her mid-twenties. There’s some solid work by Ray Liotta, the always dependable Bruce Greenwood and Dane DeHaan (although he could use a role where he’s not an awkward teenager). Rose Byrne is largely ineffectual, although she doesn’t have much to work with. And my feelings towards Bradley Cooper are well documented. My jets have cooled over the last few years, and he doesn’t incite instant dislike as he used to, but I’m never going to be a fan. His performance is fine, but I didn’t like the character and wasn’t very interested in his story.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-06The biggest problem I had with the film is Emory Cohen as AJ. Firstly, he looks nothing like his onscreen parents. Neither does DeHaan for that matter, but I didn’t have as much of a problem with him. The real problem with Cohen is his performance. I assume it was a directive from Cianfrance, but as played it’s like the goombah bastard child of Marlon Brando and Paul Sorvino. Never for one second did I believe that this kid was raised by Avery and Jennifer. He doesn’t even seem to have been raised in the same town. He’s a douchebag rich kid and he tawks loik he’s from the streets of Brooklyn (or some shit like that). It’s just so out of place, it only resulted in taking me entirely out of the film. What little interest I had in the film ended when the focus of the story shifted to him.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-02The other issue I had with the film, and this is a very common problem with films set over a number of years, is that 15 years later none of the characters looked much different. I watched Broken City the other day and that suffers from the same problem. Sure the women were given a makeup job so that they were a bit darker under the eyes, and maybe some salt and pepper in the hair. But in close up, Rose Byrne hadn’t aged a day. Her skin showed no sign of the passage of time. Time marches on for all of us, and there is no secret for everlasting youth. Bradley Cooper was merely given a slick politico’s haircut and an expensive suit, and we’re expected to buy it.

Overall, this was a disappointment because the first section is actually very good. It’s possible that ambition got the best of the writing team, but whatever the reason, The Place Beyond The Pines fell apart. It’s a shame because these films are few and far between at this time of year. It’s back to ‘splosions and superheroes I guess.

I bestow two bottles of peroxide out of a possible four on The Place Beyond The Pines.

The-Place-Beyond-The-Pines-Rating

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About Judge Droid

In between refining my procrastination skills I talk a lot of shit about movies and such.

39 responses to “A Droid Premiere – The Place Beyond The Pines (2013)”

  1. Judge Droid says :

    Made a few alterations to one of the last paragraphs. Not sure what happened, but my text got chopped and it made no sense. It’s fixed now.

  2. Xiphos0311 says :

    I can’t buy Gosling as a tough guy. there isn’t a planet in all the multiverse of planets that houses a believable tough guy Ryan Gosling. He’s too much of a suburban poofster to buy into that.

    • Judge Droid says :

      heh. I know you can’t. But I don’t think he’s a “tough guy” in this movie. Not your traditional tough guy anyway. I saw him more as a damaged guy. Horrible upbringing, poor, uneducated. The tats and the attitude are more of a mask. That’s how I saw him anyway. He never does anything in the film overtly tough guy-ish.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I can’t stand the dude. those blank eyes and slack jaw are his only acting ability. calling him a plank of wood is insult to planks of wood everywhere.

      • Judge Droid says :

        You’ve seen Drive I take it.

      • Jarv says :

        He’s shit in Drive. About as scary as being savaged by a duck.

        Agree with Xi, he’s never been “hard” in any way shape or form.

        That film blows goat nob.

      • Judge Droid says :

        His character in this film isn’t meant to be “hard”. Not really. It’s a costume. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Jarv says :

        No, I get that.

        I was talking about Drive.

        I can’t stand him either. He’s highly punchable. More so than Sack of Cocks.

      • Judge Droid says :

        I’m largely indifferent. Thought he was terrible in Drive. Quite good in Crazy Stupid Love. Good in this. Not sure what else I’ve seen him in. I think a thriller with Anthony Hopkins… can’t have been good if I’ve forgotten it.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Jarv, is Sunday still on?

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        It’s tough guy on the sense tha the have in hard dangerous jobs in this movie tha he seem entirely lacking in balls to be doing.

        Also they are trying hard to make the soft lad a tough guy. This drive and that 40’s gangster flick faed miserably in the attempt

  3. Jarv says :

    I believe so.

  4. ThereWolf says :

    I didn’t have much interest in this one to begin with. Does Rose Byrne manage to crack a smile for a change? She’s miserable in every film I see her in.

    Excellent review, Droid.

    • Judge Droid says :

      Thank you kindly, Wolf. If you’re looking to cop an eyeful of Rose Byrne’s pearly whites, this definitely isn’t the movie to see. Now that you mention it, I can’t really think of one. Maybe Two Hands? Early on in the film (before things go bad) she may have flashed ’em.

      • Bartleby says :

        Sounds like a new standard for film legitimacy. Does she get out the chompers in this one?

        As for your review, it’s odd but I think you might be the only one I’ve read that was willing to call it unsatisfying for pulling that bait-and-switch. Actually, I agree with you. It’s not a bad movie, but it definitely makes the wrong move. Kind of interesting that the movie is essentially about men putting overconfidence in themselves and then suffering the fall for it. Think that’s more or less what the director did here. He couldnt just make a movie about this father and his son, or these two men and their sons, he had to make an epic about ‘FATHERS AND SONS’ and traded up a good story for a less interesting ‘human condition’ sort of thing.

        Gosling isn’t a convincing badass, but that’s not the kind of character he’s playing here. Actually Bag of Coopers was pretty decent too. And Ray Liotta, as he usually is when not playing a sorcerer in a Uwe Boll movie.

      • Judge Droid says :

        It seems to be ambition outreaching talent. The director seems talented (there’s good things about the movie) but not enough (yet?) to pull off this kind of film. Cooper was okay during the second section. I don’t think he was very good in the third. It didn’t help that I kind of hated the whole third section though.

  5. Continentalop says :

    I have a question: who can play a tough guy nowadays?

    I mean the 80s had Sean Penn, Robert Patrick and Mickey Rourke, all young leading man types who did a good job playing thugs and hard guys. Who out there right now is comparable?

    • Xiphos0311 says :

      Not a single one they’re all weak pansys.

      • Continentalop says :

        Time for a GI Bill. Post 40s had the toughest actors ever – Bronson, Marvin, Eastwood, Hackman, Neville Brand, Sterling Hayden, McQueen, Charles Durning – and the GI Bill had a big part to do with that.

        Probably some tough black & Hispanic actors we don’t know about though.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        Tough white kids also. there are more then a few former Battalion and Fleet Force Recon Marines and Army Rangers and Special Forces that are trying to make a go of it in Hollywood some are even trying to act. I would also imagine there are probably some Air Force and Navy Special operation people doing the same. There are probaly also line units guys trying along with pilots and Corpsman and SeaBees and whoever else wants to make a go of it in that stinking pit.

        Further there are probably one or two tough kids that aren’t service members trying to make it in Hollywood but they won’t get a decent shot they won’t play the game and the people in charge now are just as weak as most of the wannabe stars.

      • Continentalop says :

        I meant tough Hispanic or black actors working tight now that we don’t know about because they’re not that big of names.

        But the entire problem with Hollywood from my POV is that it is incredibly lazy and risk averse. It is completely predicated on who starts first and has the most experience because producers, studio execs, directors, investors and the audience always want to go with a proven commodity.

        Most American actors are former child actors or guys who started young in college or acting school, which most people don’t have the luxury of. And a lot of them come from money and have well off parents.

        By the time some kid wants to become an actor out of the military or even HS he’s got to compete with guys who have years if not a decade of experience over them, plus a list of credits. So our new kid is going to start taking acting lessons to catch up but he doesn’t have mommy and daddy paying his rent so he has to work, meaning he gets half the time to train as some other kid does (and probably doesn’t have the contacts that other guy has as well).

        And when finally our guy catches up in skill level and talent they cast the other kid because he is more of a name and has bigger credits on imdb.

        The acting game is a tough racket for those who aren’t connected or starting from scratch. I have lots of respect for those who truly make it on their own (like Amy Adams).

    • Judge Droid says :

      There are guys who can play “tough”. How young do you mean by “young leading man types”? Edgerton, Hardy, Hemsworth. Those guys can play “tough guy” roles. Probably too conventionally good looking to pull off a thug. But they’re designated leading men. Robert Patrick was never a leading man. Neither was Sean Penn. He could have been, I suppose, but he never really took the roles.

      The simple fact is, films aren’t made for you anymore. They’re made to be attractive to all demographics. Women in particular. Which is why guys like Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum are so popular. Women flock to their movies. Look at the success of Magic Mike. I hardly know any woman that hasn’t seen that movie. I also don’t know any man that has.

      • Jarv says :

        TV Land has some legitimate “tough” actors in it.

        Leaping to mind is the Scottish guy in Sons of Arseachey. Not Charlie Hunnan (least convincing biker ever).

        Most don’t have the background now- Rourke, for example, did go on to be a boxer (and wasn’t truly awful). There’s nobody like that now that’s mainstream.

      • Continentalop says :

        I should have added “American” actors. Ever since Russell Crowe starred in LA Confidential, “Hollywood” seems to have been outsourcing its “masculine” roles to British and Australian actors. Even James Cameron pointed that out when he made AVATAR.

        But yeah Droid, you’re probably right that they don’t make movies for our demographic or taste anymore.

        PS – I meant Eric Roberts. Wasn’t a leading man for long, but was one and a hell of an actor for a very short span.

      • Continentalop says :

        And there actually is an argument that the pill is to blame for all of this.

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6270786/The-pill-gives-women-a-taste-for-boyish-men-like-Zac-Efron.html

      • Jarv says :

        Wimmin’s Lib.

        Pah.

        The pill is to blame for so much. Particularly when scumbags don’t take it so populate the world with cretinous piss poor protoplasm.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Wahlberg – marky mark, not donny.
        legit tough guy

  6. Judge Droid says :

    Okay, I’ve had a skim through 2012 films (listed on wiki) and tried to identify some “young tough guys” who are leading men and (I think are) under 40. At the very least, guys who aren’t manboys.

    Contraband – Marky Mark (at TKD’s suggestion, I’m not 100% convinced).
    Ghost Rider 2 – Idris Elba.
    This Mean’s War – Tom Hardy.
    Cabin in the Woods – Chris Hemsworth.
    Journey 2 – Dwayne Johnson.
    Rust and Bone – Matthias Schoenaerts.
    TDKR – Christian Bale.
    Lawless – Jason Clarke.
    Dredd – Karl Urban.
    End of Watch – Michael Pena.
    Zero Dark Thirty – Joel Edgerton.

    Not a lot. And I think only 3 are american.

    • Continentalop says :

      Lets see:

      Marky Mark – so-so as a tough guy. Sometimes he pulls it off other times he comes across as Tom Cruise trying to act tough.

      Idris Elba – English & Black (more believable tough black actors IMO, just not enough of them who are stars)

      Tom Hardy – English

      Chris Hemsworth – Australian (and I don’t buy him as a tough guy. Big yes, not tough).

      Dwayne Johnson – former pro wrestler and can only work as a comic book tough guy like Sly and Ahnold.

      Matthias Schoenaerts – has he even been in an English language film?

      Christian Bale – Welsh and not that convincing of tough guy to me (no McQueen)

      Jason Clarke – Australian

      Karl Urban – New Zealand

      Michael Pena – he’s American but I haven’t really seen much of his stuff.

      Joel Edgerton – Australian.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Yeah, I was leaning on the “not manboys” fine print. There really aren’t a lot. RE: Idris. He’s a leading man. Which is why he is in it over others.

        It’s a very basic skim search. I’m sure there are others, but really, I’m not going in to detail.

        Pena – Seems like he could be a tough guy. At least, a hard-nosed guy. He’s not big, but he seems like he’d put up one hell of a fight.

        Dwayne was a convincing tough guy in Faster. He leaned heavily on his comedic skills early on in his acting career.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Have you seen A Perfect Getaway? Hemsworth in that is pretty imposing.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Schoenaerts – No idea. Only seen him in R&B. Tough looking guy in that.

      • Continentalop says :

        If we’re going beyond American & English-language films, I’d say Kim Yoon-seok from THE CHASER.

      • Toadkillerdog says :

        Marky mark is a legit tough guy, even if he does not always ‘act’ or look the part.
        The difference is he grew up in an environment that where that toughness was needed. He may not always project it on screen, but it is really there, as opposed to some guys sneering and pretending to be tough.
        I liken it to guys leaving a gym, with their ‘swole’ on, and thinking they can beat anybody they encounter, as opposed to a guy who works with his hands muscles for a living . The guy who work his muscles for a living may not look as ripped as the guy who just walked out of a gym, but 9/10 he can rip that guys head off.

      • Continentalop says :

        Toad, I buy Marky Mark in stuff like THE FIGHTER or THE DEPARTED where he is playing something close to home, but in other movies he comes across as a guy putting on an act. He’s good when he plays a guy from humble origins, not some special forces guy or action hero.

  7. Continentalop says :

    And I’m not saying you have to actually be tough to play a tough guy. I mean Joe Pesci is probably a pussy but he can pull off a legitimate killer and gangster.

    I think it has more to do with life experience and authenticity. A lot of old actors never saw combat but they were in the military and knew guys who did so they knew first hand how’d they act. Same thing with NY actors who knew gangsters and drug dealers and knew how they act. Guys nowadays seem sheltered and can’t project any authenticity.

    • Toadkillerdog says :

      Conti,
      I may need to ‘walk back’ my support of marky mark.
      I was basing that on some admittedly sketchy knowledge of his background. He was a ‘street tough’ , but just a quick perusal of his background seems to indicate that he was more of a bully/punk than an actual tough guy.

      Some people are genuinely tough and project that -in real life or on the screen, others do not.
      The best example of one who did not was Audie Murphy.
      Never once did i believe he was a tough guy, no matter how hard h’wood tried to make him, but his real life exploits far surpassed what h’wood could not make of him.

      On screen he comes across as a soft spoken nice guy, which he really was, but that does not equate to ‘toughness’

      • Continentalop says :

        Toad, yeah my thing isn’t so much that someone is really tough but he can project authentic tough, rugged or street qualities. Most actors you can tell are faking it but some guys can project what feels authentic, usually because they’ve experienced things first hand.

        As for Audie, he actually played a convincing gunman and cold killer in one movie I know of, NO NAME ON THE BULLET. But in truth Murphy was better playing cowards or reluctant heroes or guys desperate to prove themselves.

  8. MORBIUS says :

    Nicely done Droid, you sold me … on not seeing this.
    The part about AJ cemented the deal!
    I’m in the don’t care for Gosling, Cooper or Tatum camp.

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