Ryan Gosling shines in this powerful performance as a tattooed drifter fighting to escape his fate and provide a better life for his son.
The Place Beyond the Pines story sprawls across 16 years pulling together a trilogy of plot lines featuring two families, one blue collar, the other middle class, whose paths cross over two generations in Schenectady, an upstate New York town.
Fans of Ryan Gosling get to revel in an explosive exploration of a character who is battling his dark side while trying to achieve a clean conscience, which is fast becoming a trademark for the actor alongside his smoldering intensity.
Directors have discovered that female viewers will forgive Ryan Gosling for damn near anything and have been on a quest to push the boundaries of his acceptance.
With his winning smile, burning gaze and stubborn fondness for women and children, Gosling has apparently won his characters a get out of jail card for murder and mayhem.
Drive saw him played a dreamy getaway driver, who manged to look graceful while stamping a man to death in a lift to protect Carey Mulligan.
In this movie as carnival bike stunt rider Luke Glanton he rampages through town robbing banks and beating a placid man, whose only transgression was to live with Romina (Eva Mendes), the woman Luke unknowingly got pregnant when he came to town a year earlier.
The drama of the situation succeeds as Luke becomes obsessed with the dream of reuniting with Romina and his baby son.
Gosling plays him as a bleached-blond, self-destructive mess, wearing a holey Metallica tee shirt and battling a mixture of unfulfilled dreams, sweetness and rage.
Luke was born for sprints and speed and not a long distance ride. Romina seems to instinctively understand this, even while feeling attracted to him.
Derek Cianfrance, who also directed Gosling in the bittersweet Blue Valentine, sets his vision higher here to include the trio of interlinked stories of damaged sons and failing fathers.
The second plot pitches Bradley Cooper as a young cop who gets pulled into deciding Luke’s fate, which in turn colours the path his own life will take.
By the third segment, the clouded co-incidences weaving the characters’ lives together feel a little forced, but the director pulls it off.
The attention to detail of the costume design adds to the muted atmosphere and gives a subtlety to the 15 year time shift of the plot.
Audiences might wonder why Bradley Cooper spends most of his time during the first storyline wearing a shell suit top and Gosling uses a disposable camera, before realising that its the early 90s.
But it is Cianfrance’s skill in building tension and his understanding of the nature of regret, which really allows the characters soar against the heavy backdrop of America’s doomed blue collar classes.