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Review: ‘The Place Beyond The Pines’

An Admirable Attempt Overdone

The Place Beyond the Pines opens April 5. It's rated R. It's long. I'll save you the time. (Warning: I will spoil things -- for your own good.)

Ryan Gosling as Handsome/Awesome/Heart Throb Luke in "The Place Beyond the Pines."

The film starts in simple, rugged fashion. Ryan Gosling is a coarse yet puppy dog-faced outlaw named Luke. He is clicking and switching his butterfly knife. We only see his tatted torso at first (yes, his abs are the opening shot). We follow the back of his head to a caged sphere (pictured above), in which he rides with three other similarly awesome men.

After the show, we quickly meet his former lover, Romina (the distractingly beautiful and perky Eva Mendes), with whom he has a baby boy -- previously unknown to Luke. Instantly he connects to his estranged son and wants to wedge himself into their lives. He wants so badly to be the father he never had that he quits travelling with his cage riding crew and starts robbing banks to support Romina and baby Jason. Luke becomes overzealous and decides to rob two banks in one day without a partner. His efforts lead to his death by the hand of newbie cop Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper).

One hour in we tragically lose our main character. This marks the end of the first of three "chapters" of the film.

Now our focus turns to new town hero, Avery. He's a law degree wielding pretty boy cop now admired by many. But his new fame lands him in uncomfortable territory as his fellow cops ask him to cover their shady dealings with his impeccable record. He circumvents the police department and takes these troubling issues to the district attorney, using the information as leverage to land himself in the new position of assistant D.A.

All the while, Avery struggles to be a father to his son -- to even look at him -- dealing with the unsettling notion that he killed the father of a child the same age.

Second "chapter" ends, the third advancing us 15 years ahead.

Avery's father has just died, his son AJ (Emory Cohen) is a sour faced punk with an inexplicable Long Islander accent who decides to move in with his father rather than stay with his mother. This move lands him in a new high school. He quickly befriends a recluse gollum-like boy named Jason (Dane DeHann). This is the same Jason Avery orphaned 15 years prior.

Dane DeHaan as Jason (left) and Emory Cohen as AJ (right) in "The Place Beyond the Pines."

Being 17-year-old high schoolers escaping immanent boredom, AJ and Jason turn to drugs. As they jaunt down the street with ecstasy in hand, they're quickly scooped up by police. Avery's power as now district attorney clears both boys. In doing so, Avery learns that this is the Jason that caused him so much dismay, whose life he believes he ruined. He still carries in his wallet a picture of baby Jason with his father and mother, acquired from the police evidence room more than a decade ago.

After Jason is released with practically no charges, he grows an insatiable urge to learn about the father he never knew. He finds the truth and learns about the man through pestering his stepfather, Google, and investigating Luke's old home. In an article covering his father's death he sees the picture of the cop who killed him -- Avery.

While in a drunken stupor at one of AJ's house parties he sees the same picture of his father's assailant. Enraged, he confronts AJ who reacts violently, putting Jason in the hospital with an immensely bruised face.

After waking, Jason acquires a gun, breaks into AJ's home, vaguely hurts him and takes Avery hostage. Few words are spoken until they arrive deep in the woods. Avery seeks answers knowing exactly who holds the gun to his face and why he might be doing so. On his knees, in a state of helplessness and grief he shows his first signs of worry for his son -- he cries for him, unsure if Jason killed him or not. Confusion and anger fill Jason's bruised face as he holds the gun to his father's killer. Rather than taking his life, he abruptly yells for Avery's wallet and keys, and drives away.

Bradley Cooper as hostage District Attorney Avery Cross in "The Place Beyond the Pines."

Cut to Avery's acceptance of his new position as attorney general, happy, with his son at his side.

Cut to Jason's mother Romina, opening an envelope sent from Jason, containing only the picture of his family he found in Avery's wallet.

Cut to Jason buying and mounting his first motorcycle, starting it and riding off through the landscape, showing that badass motorcycling skills run in the family.

And that's it. I'm torn about this movie. It has a lot of great and admirable elements -- the acting is controlled and accessible with a great cast; nuanced themes resurface through the chapters; details are available for the engaged audience to appreciate. But similar to Les Miserables (2012), it's just too long. It covers too much ground too quickly, and detracts from the powerful and beautiful moments that happened eons ago at the film's beginning. The abrupt cuts in the first chapter seem unnecessary at first, but they are absolutely crucial given the film lasts 140 minutes and is still exhaustingly long. (And seriously, would it kill modern directors to provide intermission?)

"The Place Beyond the Pines" is rated R for language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference.

Fellow Junkies:

Am I alone in thinking more movies should have built-in intermissions?

Are there any movies you enjoyed at first, but grew tired of by the end?

What lengthy films are impervious to this long, overdrawn feeling? (e.g., "Lord of the Rings," "The Godfather," "Inglorious Basterds")

For those who have seen the film, why do you think this title was chosen?

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