Luke (Ryan Gosling) isn't exactly husband material. As a motorcycle stunt rider, he doesn't have to worry about office politics, getting promoted or avoiding layoffs. And as far as women are concerned, Luke's simply out for a good time. That is, until he discovers that one of his bedmates, Romina (Eva Mendes), is the mother of a son he didn't know he had.
In a world in which some cops aren't worthy of the badge, Avery (Bradley Cooper) takes pride in being incorruptible. Maybe it's because he's a judge's son and has too much respect for the law to allow it to be compromised. But in the aftermath of a fateful encounter with Luke, Avery is forced to make a choice about just how far he's willing to go to uphold his principles.
Years later, Luke's son Jason (Dane DeHaan) and Avery's son AJ (Emory Cohen) find themselves in the same high school and subject to the same vices. Their tentative friendship soon goes sour, replaced by a relationship that's much darker and far more dangerous.
"The Place Beyond the Pines" is an ambitious drama about the ways in which one bad decision can reverberate across generations. Director and co-writer Derek Cianfrance ("Blue Valentine") clearly wants to make a grand statement about fathers, sons and destiny -- and he largely succeeds. It's only in the last of its three sections that the film falters, as what had been a taut tragedy degenerates into a limp melodrama.
But the acting is first-rate. Gosling (who also starred in "Blue Valentine") masterfully fills in Luke's motivational blanks, and Cooper nicely handles Avery's evolution from idealist to manipulator.
Their performances, and Cianfrance's flawed but fascinating vision, are enough to make "The Place Beyond the Pines" an exciting destination.
What "The Place Beyond the Pines" --Three stars out of four --Rating R --Language Violence, teen drug and alcohol use and a sexual reference --Run time 2:20