03/19/2013 01:57 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Popcorn Preview: The Place Beyond the Pines

Film: The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
Cast includes: Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Eva Mendes (Hitch), Rose Byrne (Get Him to the Greek), Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom), Mahershala Ali (House of Cards)
Writer/Director: Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine)
Genre: Drama | Crime (140 minutes)

In the noisy, dangerous world of stunt motorcycle riding, Luke is a superstar. As fans clamor for autographs, there's a woman who's standing back. "Do you remember my name?" she asks. "I used to call you Ro." He offers her a ride home and she accepts. But when they reach her house, she says, "I've got someone now... I just wanted to see you again before you leave town tomorrow for another year." Thinking about Romina, Luke shows up at her house the next day. Her mother answers the door holding a small baby. "He's yours. Do you want to hold him? His name's Jason." At the diner where Romina works, Luke confronts her... "Anything you think I might wanna know before I leave here and never come back?" "It was just a fling... wasn't it?" On Sunday as the carnival's packing up, Luke decides to quit and stay in Schenectady.

As it turns out, it's also the day of Jason's baptism. And it's Kofi who's standing in as Jason's father, even though the child obviously does not have a black father. Later that day, Luke is taking out his frustration... hard riding on a dirt trail... where Robin also likes to ride. Impressed by Luke's bike-handling skill, Robin strikes up a conversation... and a few hours later has offered Luke a job and a place to stay. Luke appreciates everything, but it's hard to make as much money as he needs. That's when Robin suggests robing banks... not too often... not with a gun, but with a note. At least that's how Robin's done it in the past. But Luke is an adrenaline junkie... his approach is much more aggressive. As it turns out, it's a real high. At first Luke enjoys being able to play a small role in Jason's life... buy him his first ice cream... but he wants more. His friend Robin tries to caution him, but Luke's not likely to heed the warning... "If you ride like lightening, you're gonna crash like thunder."

When the crash comes, the police officer involved is Avery Cross. Just 6 months on the job, he hasn't learned to take things like this in stride. When he learns about Luke's son... the same age as his own son... the coincidence just adds to his stress. At this point, the narrative transitions to Avery. But Luke's story and Avery's will remain intertwined forever... even as the narrative transitions again to the sons' stories. The larger story is about the legacy that's passed from fathers to sons. Even though the stories are blended together, the movie still has 3 distinct stories... some more engaging than others. Audiences are likely find Luke's story the most compelling. Indeed Ryan Gosling gives a stunning performance as the tattoo covered, wildly reckless bad boy who has never learned how to make good use of his better instincts... and he does have them... which is why we care about him. After Luke's high-octane story, it's easy to feel a bit let down as the narrative moves on. When Robin talks about robing banks, he tells Luke, "It'll be the biggest rush of your life." And indeed, it is a big rush. But it's also a really tough act to follow.

2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A bank robber's story and a cop's story are intertwined, even into the next generation... and perhaps beyond

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Crime)
Audience: Young adults
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure entertainment

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