The plot of “The Place Beyond The Pines” can be broken into two parts: the first hour, and then everything after. The movie starts out following Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a traveling motorcycle stuntman who discovers that his one-night stand with a local waitress (Romina, played by the bra-less Eva Mendes) produced a son.
Learning he is a father sparks Luke to quit his daredevil motorcycling gig and become a less successful adult than he was originally.
He settles in and befriends a fellow motorcross enthusiast, who is immediately blown away by his dirtbiking skills and cheery disposition. Knowing a hard worker and good person when he sees one, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) offers Luke a job at his garage and a place to live – all in the same conversation. People in New York sure are nice!
What about Romina and baby Jason, you ask? They live with Romina’s boyfriend, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), who turns out to be the best father in the movie. Ironyyyy.
Luke quickly realizes that working for minimum wage sucks and expresses his frustration at not being able to provide for his family. Robin encourages him to save his money, attend community college, and realize his dream of entrepreneurship. Nah, but he really tells Luke he should rob banks ’cause he thinks he’d be good at it. Oh and can he come along, too?
Despite his inability to yell at bank employees and patrons without his voice cracking like a prepubescent, Luke and Robin triumphantly rob several banks and the most popular Subway in town.
Things are going well for Luke and the family – he spends a nice day out with his kid and also hooks up with Romina. But domestic bliss never lasts for very long in this movie, and Luke lands in jail for the felonious assault of Mr. Kofi, in the Bedroom, with the Wrench (Clue, anyone?).
After Robin bails him out, Luke becomes intent on robbing more banks and less Subways. Robin tries to slow him down by disassembling his bike with a blow torch, but comes to the conclusion that Luke is crazy as fuck after he sticks a gun inside Robin’s mouth and demands he give back his Tamagotchi.
Alas, Luke’s next robbery goes awry and the high speed pursuit finds him holed up in a single family home, pleading with Kofi over the phone to not tell his son about him. Unfortunately for Luke, rookie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is a shoot-first-ask-questions-later type of guy. Avery shoots Luke in the chest, the force of which knocks him out an open window, but not before he shoots Avery in the thigh.
Luke falls to his death, and the movie should have ended there. Instead, there is another hour and twenty minutes…
Avery keeps secret that he shot Luke before giving him a chance to surrender, and is given the local hero treatment by everyone and their mother. The guilt from the shooting leads Avery to neglect his own son and wear wind breaker jackets for the rest of his life.
It is revealed that Avery was a practicing lawyer before changing careers, and he makes a deal with a corruption investigator to turn in a few shady policemen he worked with in exchange for the assistant district attorney job.
The story jumps ahead 15 years and everyone is pretty much the same except for Romina, who looks like she took a backhand from Father Time. This part of the movie finds Avery in the midst of his campaign for Attorney General, while the larger story surrounds his son AJ (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane DeHaan).
Of course AJ and Jason somehow become friends (or drug buddies), and Jason eventually finds out that AJ’s father killed his dad. The resulting confrontations involve at least one party not knowing why they are being attacked and the film ends with everyone basically going their own way, with the expectation that no more blood will be spilled over the sins of the fathers.
My displeasure really begins with the trailer. It’s a complete lie, false advertising – whatever you want to call it. Luke is in about 90% of the scenes shown in the preview, but under half of the actual movie. So if you saw this clip before going to the theaters, you probably were expecting a vastly different film than the one you got.
In the same vein, I am also critical of the character pacing – the order in which the characters were introduced and developed. The movie begins singularly focused on Luke and his struggle to be a part of his son’s life, but more importantly, to be a father. This storyline was easily the best, largely due to Ryan Gosling’s gritty-yet-engaging portrayal of Luke. He was the most enigmatic character with the least expensive wardrobe. The entire first hour completely revolved around this electric, intriguing character and then, just like that, he gets killed off. The problem being that you’re almost halfway through the movie and there has been no other in-depth characterization of anyone besides Luke. So the rest of the cast has to pick up the pieces, and life without Luke is invariably bleak and depressing.
I also couldn’t get over the way AJ was portrayed. To illustrate the level of disconnect between father and son, the filmmakers decided to have him be this drug-abusing high school wigger, which made it hard to focus on anything besides how hilariously bad that turned out.
All in all, “Pines” had its fair share of good moments, but they all occurred within the first hour. MP