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Movie review: The Place Beyond the Pines

Updated on April 11, 2013

For many, the notion that current heart throbbers Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper starring in the same film may sound too good to be true. And in a sense it isn't exactly true, as the pair share the briefest of scenes together.

What's more disappointing however is that despite some decent casting decisions, this film has very little else going for it.

Although telling people you work at a carnival may make you sound cool, it really depends on the job you do. Handing out the odd prize on some dodgy hoop-around-a-bottle stool, isn't all that. Riding motorbikes in a steel globe however, is, and that's exactly what Luke (Gosling) does for a living.

After one show an old flame in the shape of Romina (Eva Mendez) drops by to say hi. They haven't seen each other for about a year, and he's pleased to see her. So much so that he decides to pop around to where she lives, only to be greeted by her mother and a small boy, who he's informed is actually his.

This moment is a life changer for Luke, who decides he wants to provide for not only his son but for Romina as well. But with Romina having moved on and now living with a new man, embracing the family unit is going to be no easy thing.

Luke decides to leave his life on the road behind him, and attempts to make good on his word to provide for his family. But for someone with his limited skill set, this is no easy task. It's no real surprise that he soon turns to a life of crime.

Meanwhile Avery (Cooper) is starting out his new career as an officer in the police force. After an incident that sees him being shot in the leg, some colleagues, including seasoned cop Deluca (Ray Liotta), make sure he gets a cut of the money recovered from the crime. But as Avery soon discovers, there no such thing as a free handout.

The most impressive element about this film is that it can attract the likes of Hollywood A-listers in Gosling and Cooper, as this is far from mainstream popcorn fare.

This is director Derek Cianfrance's follow up to his 2010 Blue Valentine(which also starred Gosling), and the somewhat bleak theme of that film continues here.

Unfortunately what's missing is a script with any real substance. Cianfrance, who also co-wrote the screenplay , may well have wanted to produce a piece of cinema that delves deep into the mindset of his characters, but if that we're the case, he's failed miserably.

Certain parts of the script can be overlooked; like the incredible lack of any security in local banks. What can't be ignored however is the film's heavy reliance on coincidence; the film's final third relies on such a far-fetched act of coincidence it's utterly laughable. And when you're attempting to make a credible, dark indie flick, the last thing you're looking from your ending is laughs.

There's a certain ambition achieved by Cianfrance in having a story told in three parts from different characters. However, his desire to close the circle of the story he created completely destroys all the interesting work done up until this point.

Although it's great to see both Gosling and Cooper mix up their careers with mainstream and indie offerings, with both of them also giving credible performances here, this one won't go down as a classic for either of them. Or anyone else concerned, for that matter.

As is usually the case with anything pine-scented, it's usually disguising a less pleasing odour, which is sadly the case here.

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