Sunday, April 14, 2013

"The Place Beyond the Pines" is a large-canvas, 80's-style crime thriller


The Place Beyond the Pines”  (not “behind”) is a spot in the Adirondack foothills where a critical confrontation occurs between a father and son, of opposing families.  That doesn’t happen until near the end of this 140-minute crime drama that is styled in the fashion of major 70s and 80s classics (“The Deer Hunter”, based on the Vietnam era, comes to mind).  It is a film “in three parts”, and almost like three short films stitched together, each with its won BME (“beginning, middle, and end” in screenwrit9ing circles). 
  
The public comes into this film having been dazzled by previews with Ryan Gosling’s heavily tattooed (and necessarily “thmooth”) bod.  It’s not attractive.  Ryan is going from being nice boy to playing hardened professional criminals (as in “Drive”),  go down their courses because they believe they have to. As the movie starts in the 1990s, Luke Glanton is a broke motorcycle stunt rider (I was worked a show of motorcycle stunts at the Metrodome  in 2003 in a volunteer project) with a young boy and  (illegal immigrant) girl friend (Eva Mendes).  He meets a rural hobo (Craig von Hook) who introduces the idea of surviving and providing for his family with bank robberies with bike getaways.  After all, it’s just revolution against the capitalist pig system, right?  Nobody gets hurt. 
  
At the end of Part I, Luke’s luck runs out.  Cornered in a residential neighborhood, he invades a home.  The family escapes, and a policeman Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) shoots him dead in a confrontation. (The shooting scene seems to be done with a stunt double for Cooper.)   In Part II, Avery, a high-minded law school graduate who had decided to join the police force (Bradley Cooper still always plays nice guys) , deals with a scandal in which police officers  (led by Ray Liotta’s character) raid the homes of associates of dead criminals to keep money for themselves.  Avery, wounded in the confrontation but recovering physically over time,  sees an opportunity to turn his own life back toward law and politics,
Part III occurs 15 years later, after Avery’s father (instrumental in Avery’s handling of the scandal) has passes away.  In the aftermath of the funeral, Avery’s own teenage son (Emory Cohen, whose character displays too much chest hair for a teen) happens to meet Luke’s son Jason (Dane DeHaan).  Both are troubled and into underage drinking and drugs.  All of this leads to a confrontation where kids bear the sins of their fathers. 
  
The film, written and directed by Derek Cianfrance, who also developed  the story, which has the aspects of a Theodore Dreiser novel (or perhaps Cormac McCarthy).  It will lend itself to “novelization” for eBook sales, I’m sure.  The directorial style reminds one of the Coen Brothers, although there is less direct humor and irony.  The music score by Mike Patton broods with a curious triple-time rhythm, a kind of Ravel-like caricature of the waltz (“La Valse”). 
  
This is a big film, from Studio Canal and Sidney Kimmel, filmed in the Albany NY area.  In earlier decades, it would have been branded as a major studio release (Universal) rather than the “arthouse” label Focus. The link is here. The budget was $15 million.  I didn’t see any film festival notes on the site;  I would have expected a film like this to clean house at a major international festival.   I’m surprised to see it released early in the year, when it could have been in Oscar contention.
  
I saw this at the AMC Shirlington in the big auditorium late Saturday night.  There was a small crowd.  That older theater does not seem to have digital projection yet.  It also plays at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington, which is much more modern now after renovation (with reclined seats and enhanced digital projection), but was too late for that show.  AMC rarely shows a film at both theaters in Arlington VA.  It must have high expectation from this one.   

"They" don't make large-scale "realistic" films like this much anymore.  I love the film style of the 1980s.  

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