This film is about cops and robbers. The good guys vs. the bad guys. Sometimes, though, the good guys turn out to be the bad guys. The action takes place in the city and the environs of Schenectady, which is the Mohawk Indian word “the place beyond the pine plains.” The story is actually told in three separate parts, stretching over fifteen years.
Ryan Gosling - Wikimedia
Ryan Gosling plays the part of Luke Glanton, a tattooed, carefree, carnival daredevil motorcyclist. He noticed a familiar face in the audience one day - Romina (Eva Mendes) who was surprised that Luke even remembered her name. He gave her a ride home on his motorcycle, but Romina was not interested in taking up with Luke again. She has another man in her life, a black man named Kofi.
Luke continued to pursue Romina, and she reluctantly informed him that he is the father of her year-old son Jason. Luke decided to stay in town to be near his son and to provide for him in some way; he quit his job with the carnival which moved onto another town.
Eva Mendes - Wikimedia
Luke managed to get a part-time job at a repair shop owned by a man named Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), who allowed Luke to live on his property in a trailer behind the shop. Luke realized that he could not live on the meager money he received at his job. Robin admitted to Luke that he used to rob banks, and offered to take him on as a partner. Luke’s ability on his motorcycle made him the perfect partner to Robin who owned a large truck. The plan they hatched was to have Luke rob the bank, hop on his motorcycle to meet Robin and his truck about four blocks away, using a ramp to ride the motorcycle into the truck and speed away. They were successful in pulling off several heists, which allowed Luke to provide certain necessities to Romina and their son Jason.
When Kofi came home one day to find Luke in the house putting together a crib he had purchased for Jason, he told Luke to take his stuff and get out. He was not welcome there. They got into a fight which hospitalized Kofi, leading to Luke’s arrest. Robin was kind enough to give Luke bail money, and Luke was ready once again to execute their plan for robbing another bank. Robin wanted out, and Luke was on his own for the next bank heist. The police were able to chase him until he fell off his bike and entered a home. He told the two residents to get out, which they did.
Bradley Cooper - Wikimedia
Luke Gets Caught
The policeman chasing Luke was Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Hiding in the house, Luke used the phone to call Romina to ask her never to tell their baby Jason that he was his father.
Avery entered the house, and the two men exchanged gun shots. Luke fell out of the upstairs window in the confusion of the melee, but not before shooting Avery in the leg. Avery had some rehabilitation time at home with his wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) and his one-year-old son A. J. He admitted to the doctor that he had difficulty spending time with his son when he knew that he had killed a man who also had a one-year-old son.
Avery is being called a hero in the media. His colleagues Scotty (Gabe Fazio) and Deluca (Ray Liotta) paid him a visit one evening on the pretense of wanting to take him to a small celebration for his recovery. However, they first take him to Rowina’s, stating that they have a warrant to search her house for the money that Luke had stolen. They find it under the mattress in the sleeping baby Jason’s crib. Instead of turning it into the authorities, Deluca stated that they would split the cache, and told Avery they wanted him to have the lion’s share. Avery went to the Police Chief and told him the story, wanting to turn in his share of the money. The Chief did not want to get involved and refused to take the money.
Ray Liotta - Wikimedia
Avery’s father, Al Cross, a highly respected retired judge was Avery’s go-to guy when he needed advice. A fellow office had approached Avery about a job he wanted him to do. The judge advised Avery to record the officer’s conversation wherein he asked Avery, in his temporary desk job, to remove some evidence being held at police headquarters. This led to a huge investigation of police corruption, which was credited to Avery’s actions. Avery, a law school graduate, used his notoriety in the case to become an assistant district attorney.
Fifteen Years Later
Part three of this entire scenario flashes forward fifteen years. At the funeral of Avery’s father Al, we learn that Avery and Jennifer have separated and she asks Avery to take their son A. J. into his home to give him the discipline that she has been unable to accomplish. A. J. is a sullen teenager who then must transfer to a school in Schenectady, where he becomes friends with a boy named Jason. Both boys have used drugs in the past. The two boys are caught one evening with drugs on their person. When Avery is obliged to pick up A. J. at the police station, he realized that Jason Glanton is Luke Glanton’s son. Avery uses his clout to get A. J. off with just a misdemeanor, and warns his son never to go near Jason again. Of course, Jason disobeys his father.
Meanwhile, Jason is anxious to learn more about his biological father, but Romina keeps her promise to Luke and will not relieve his curiosity. His stepfather, Kofi, gives Jason his father’s name. Jason googles Luke’s name on his computer and learns the entire story. He spoke with Luke’s friend Robin, and heard for the first time that Luke was famous for his motorcycle proficiency.
Dane DeHaan - Wikimedia
A. J.’s House Party
When Avery was out of town, A. J. planned a huge house party with his friends, and invited Jason. He asked Jason to bring the powerful drug Oxycontin to the party as his admission fee. Jason had to steal it from the pharmacy, which he succeeded in doing. At the party, Jason saw a photograph of Avery, and knew from the newspaper clipping he had retrieved about the case that Avery was the police officer who had killed Jason’s father. He and A. J. fought at the party and Jason had to be hospitalized for his injuries. In retaliation Jason went to A. J.’s house with a gun and beat him up. When Avery came home from work, Jason ordered him to drive to the woods where he intended to kill him. Avery apologized to Jason for his actions fifteen years ago, and Jason let him go.
The last few scenes show Jason back at Robin’s house, picking up Luke’s old motorcycle which had been in Robin’s garage for fifteen years. He paid Robin for fixing it like knew, and Jason took off, saying he was going out west. The viewer is left to wonder if Jason will follow in his father’s footsteps or will he seek another path.
“The Place Beyond the Pines” was a cut above any film I have seen recently. The critics agreed, indicating that it could stand up there with some of the great classics of the last century, such as “The Godfather” or “The Deer Hunter.”