Skip to main content

Review: Sins of the Father (Place Beyond the Pines)

It is said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. In this tale of fathers and sons, hell just may be the best they can hope for.

Luke (Ryan Gosling) lives his life completely uninhibited as a stunt rider in a traveling carnival. Luke being introduced by his profession is an important note, his trade is not a spectator sport for its grace, people watch Luke because each time he steps into that cage, he could die.

This evening in Schenectady is like any other, that is, until he sees Romina (Eva Mendes). The two had a brief, but passionate fling and he hasn't seen her since. He wants to reach out, though it's too little, too late. Luke drops Romina off, yet something keeps him from leaving town. He comes back the next day to find a son he never knew about. The moment he found out he was a father, Luke quits the road.

Money is hard to come by for an out-of-work carnie, he is taken in by an auto mechanic (Ben Mendehlson). Robin has only seen talent like Luke's maybe a handful of times, he rides like lightning. Robin has robbed four banks before, and he stopped before he got caught. He offers his system to Luke, if he wants to provide for his new family, he can do it quickly.

Robbing banks comes with its own set of circumstances. Luke isn't just riding in a steel cage anymore, the ride is not choreographed, and those men waiting for him will put him in prison. Men like Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).

There is a speed at which movement is impossible to comprehend and the eye is just frantically throwing pieces together. Some would complain that everything is a blur, but the visceral thrill from taking everything at the speed Luke sees is unmatched in white-knuckle intensity. Sean Bobbitt captures these chase scenes beautifully.

Place Beyond the Pines shifts narrative focus several times over the course of the film. Once finished with Luke's story, Derek Cianfrance places Avery under his scope. Avery starts out as a beat cop, but with his family pedigree (his father is a former Supreme Court Justice), that won't be the case for long. If he is to do so, he must navigate the waters of his department, waters filled with sharks like Lt. DeLuca (if there is a face that suggests a lack of morality more than Ray Liotta's, I haven't seen it).

Are some just predetermined to be successes or fuck-ups? Jason (Dane Dehaan) never knew his father, but the paths he and A.J. Cross (Emory Cohen) are about to cross will irrevocably change both families.

Cianfrance could have coasted off the success of Blue Valentine, but with Place Beyond the Pines, he delivers a much more ambitious picture. Instead of capturing the love built and lost between a husband and wife, Cianfrance sweeps the camera over a city and generations of men who enforce the law, men who break it, and those for whom that line is grey.

It's not an indictment, but a well-acted display of whether or not our lives are determined by fate, or our own choices.

****

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…