Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Place Beyond the Pines

The powerful "The Place Beyond the Pines" reunites the team behind "Blue Valentine": the director Derek Cianfrance, producer Alex Orlovsky and its star Ryan Gosling. This time, the plot centers on moral quandaries in Schenectady, New York. 

With its circular, interconnected design, the story takes a page from the films "Amores Perros" (2000) and "Mystic River" (2003). Cianfrance has his own rhythm however: a steady Shakespearean sizzle  that gradually escalates combined with an earthy, deadpan realism rich in foreshadowing and symbolism.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a small time carnival stuntman who is up against the wall with little money or possibility for success. He has a motorbike that looks oddly like a toy and buzzes like a mosquito. Every night he enters a metal cage of death (a staple of The Midway) and races upside down at top speed). When he finishes the night, Luke invariably removes his red jacket like a reptile skin. He is covered with Robert Crumb-like tattoos, and as usual, with his tilted, dropsy eyes, Gosling's Luke is a sad harlequin. He makes a riveting presence.

Luke resolves to leave Schenectady but decides to pay a farewell visit to intermittent girlfriend, Romina (Eva Mendes). Romina's mother comes to the door with a baby and tells Luke that the infant is his son.

Needless to say, Luke tries to ingratiate himself to Romina and to press himself back into her life.

Having little practical skills or productive ambition, he falls in with the dissipated Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) who urges him to rob banks. Luke is aggressive and scary but does not kill anyone. He exits like someone frightened and afraid of shadows, while his voice is often high and breaking. Luke is not a comfortable criminal, operating instead on absolute will to support his son. He violently pukes after the robbery as if stricken with a karmic virus. The nights get smoother then, with added kisses and some hot time  with Romina, but  after a near deadly assault to Romina's new lover and partner Kofi, (Merhershalla Ali), she gives him the ax.

Things go from bad to worse for Luke and his motorcycle.

Bradley Cooper is Avery Cross an all American cop who is wet behind the ears and drawn into Luke's antihero oscillation. After a botched bank job, Luke is holed up in a suburban house. Thinking that Luke is about to shoot his gun instantly, Avery shoots Luke who is by an upstairs window and he falls to his death. Luke's head is squashed on the walkway, his leg pulled underneath him like The Hanged Man tarot card.

Avery is seen as a local hero but privately, he is dogged with guilt.

If that isn't tense enough, everybody's favorite scary actor, Ray Liotta, knocks on the door as fellow police buddy Deluca  to start more trouble with Avery.

The police here are more frightening than Luke ever could be.

The sons of Luke and Avery (played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen) make for some sneaky intrigue even though you can tell from the start that they are set  for an inexorable fate.

Although the main plot is heavy with Karma, (as in the sins of the fathers being revved up and redrawn by their sons), the dramatic powers that the actors deliver are magnetic. Ryan Gosling, in particular, with his melancholy force and unfulfilled eyes is both jolting and heartfelt onscreen.

In watching "The Place Beyond the Pines", you realize that for some, life choices are all too arbitrary and that little is guaranteed. Schenectady, in Cianfrance's lenses is as Gothic a place  as Savannah Georgia.

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