Only movies with the right amount of heft can support a running time over two hours. The Place Beyond the Pines acts like it does, but it rambles on for much of that time and isn't nearly as deep as it thinks it is.
While ostensibly about a bank robber (Ryan Gosling) and the cop pursuing him (Bradley Cooper), The Place Beyond the Pines is more about the titular place, otherwise known as Schenectady, New York. Cianfrance really establishes a sense of place here, where the cops are friends and the townspeople work hard, even if that job is shady.
This is also a movie about fathers and sons and how a father's choices can affect his children, even years later. These are weighty themes, but there's no chance for them to sink in because it's too busy running quickly through a forest of cliches.
A good chunk of the film takes place some time in the '90s with Gosling's Handsome Luke leaving behind his stunt riding days to rob banks. Sadly, this plays too much like a Drive rip-off, mostly because Gosling again plays a soft-spoken, violent criminal. There's plenty of style in this section of the film, but not nearly enough substance.
About an hour in, the film switches perspectives to Cooper's Avery Jones, a beat cop who stumbles across Luke's path. During his investigation, he uncovers widespread corruption on the police force. Again, this feels entirely derivative, especially because Ray Liotta plays one of the dirty cops.
Yet the film keeps going on and on, jumping ahead to catch up with Avery's son, a drugged-up wannabe thug. When the card "15 Years Later" popped up, a feeling of dread washed over the audience, because at that point it felt like the movie would never end.
There's a twist in the final act I won't reveal, but by then it's fairly easy to spot. But sifting through everything, there's plenty to admire in the film, particularly the cinematography and acting. Still, it's a slog and one that's been done earlier and better.