Movie Review: The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Screenplay: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Genre: Crime/Drama
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Dane DeHaan, Emory Cohen, Ray Liotta
Running Time: 140 minutes

The Place Beyond the Pines is an incredibly ambitious project that tackles many different themes and storylines in its near 2 1/2 hour running time. It is a crime drama that focuses on two separate families, brought together by one earth-shattering event.

The film is split into three very distinct acts, each one focusing primarily on one or two characters.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

Act one most closely resembles a thriller, and it puts the spotlight on Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a motorcycle stuntman with a traveling gig at local state fairs. While in the town of Altamont in upstate New York, he meets up with an ex-lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), who promptly tells him that he has a one-year-old son. Floored by this news, Luke immediately quits his job so he can stay in town and help raise his child.

Unsurprisingly, there aren’t too many decent-paying options for a heavily-tattooed and undereducated worker, so he begins exploring other options. It doesn’t take long for him to settle on a life of crime — more specifically, robbing banks. Luke has the mindset that getting a bunch of money will allow him to win Romina back and have a traditional American family. If only it were that easy.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

Act two focuses on Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a rookie police officer who has his own set of problems. He is struggling to cope with an incident on the job, and he’s also quickly finding out just how hard it is to be a “good cop” in a department already embroiled in corruption.

The third act is quite different in tone, and it is set some fifteen years ahead. This act introduces us to the sons of Glanton and Cross (played by Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen, respectively), as their lives become intertwined. There is a lot of teenage angst at hand here, but also some rather intriguing self discovery.

It is impossible to go into too much detail without giving away crucial plot elements, but the way the stories are connected is fantastic. We are given plenty of time with every major character in the film, and even though they all make their share of boneheaded decisions, it’s still easy to become attached to them.

The Place Beyond the Pines [2013]

This is a testament to both the writing and the cast. Ryan Gosling’s Glanton is almost an evolution of the Driver character from Drive, and his mannerisms and reactions are perfect while performing his daring heists. Bradley Cooper does a serviceable job as the bright-eyed newbie cop, but perhaps the best performance of all comes from young Dane DeHaan. Best known for his work in the HBO show In Treatment or the 2012 film Chronicle, DeHaan is startlingly effective here, and he is continuing to show he has a bright future in the business. The supporting cast is terrific as well, with Ray Liotta, Bruce Greenwood and Rose Byrne all playing small but critical roles.

The Place Beyond the Pines suffers slightly from the transition of a thrilling opening act into a more straightforward drama, but it’s still a highly entertaining film overall. The lengthy running time is not an issue, and not once did I grow bored; how could I, with its constantly shifting narrative? Director Derek Cianfrance deserves major credit for bringing such a wide encompassing picture to fruition.

8.5/10

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans [2009]

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans [2009]
Director: Werner Herzog
Genre: Crime/Drama
Language: English
Country: USA

A common misconception is that Port of Call New Orleans is a remake of the Harvey Keitel-starring 1992 film, Bad Lieutenant. It is not; it just so happens that both movies revolve around a self-destructive police officer who exhibits truly appalling behavior. In fact, director Werner Herzog lobbied to have the movie’s name changed before its release, but was unsuccessful.

In Port of Call, Nicolas Cage stars as Det. Terence McDonagh, the degenerate cop in question. After suffering a severe back injury on duty, he becomes hooked on painkillers and pretty much any other drug he can find (heroin, crack, cocaine, etc.). McDonagh abuses his power to get what he wants by frequently bullying citizens and threatening them with jail time if they don’t help him feed his drug and/or gambling addictions. He is the essence of human scum, yet he is considered the best detective in New Orleans. It is this parable that makes it hard to feel attachment to this character, yet at the same time it is difficult to look away from his depravity.

This is Nic Cage at his finest. The man has been in a lot of crap movies these days, and his acting has been questionable to say the least. In Port of Call, he has free reign to go crazy and have this be acceptable. McDonagh is portrayed as a wild man, a reckless individual who Cage takes over the top throughout the entire movie. To say he is entertaining is an understatement; it’s just painfully difficult to like the guy.

Cage is aided by a solid supporting cast. Eva Mendes plays his prostitute girlfriend, Frankie, who shares a mutual love of drugs. Val Kilmer has a small (and subdued) role as his work partner. Xzibit plays a drug kingpin who is involved with some heinous crimes in the city. Tom Bower is McDonagh’s alcoholic father, and his background provides further insight as to how Terence became such a lowlife.

Port of Call New Orleans is a wild ride that knowingly indulges in excess, and thrives because of this. While I would hesitate to call this a *great* film due to occasional laughable dialogue, bizarre character behaviors and the difficulty to actually want to embrace any of these schmucks, I did enjoy the movie quite a bit. I would be remiss not to mention Peter Zeitlinger’s stunning cinematography; there are some truly gorgeous shots of New Orleans that really give the film a strong connection to the area. As an exercise in debauchery, Port of Call is certainly worth viewing. One question though: what the hell was up with Herzog’s reptile infatuations?

7/10