Traveling performer Luke is a man with little in life to hold onto. When he becomes aware that he has fathered a son with a woman in Schenectady, he gives up his daredevil ways for a opportunity to squeeze into his son’s life. Bunking up with a loner in the woods, they eventually start talking about a seemingly full-proof method to steal from local banks without getting caught. Eventually coming around to the idea, Luke agrees to join Robin in the escapade and gets addicted to the life. When a rift starts to form from his addiction, tragedy strikes and entangles a young police officer into the fray. Avery gets injured in the entanglement but is rewarded as a hero for his bravery. The attention brings him closer to some of the less honest cops on the force. Unsure of how to manage his newfound knowledge about their activities, Avery has to decide what is best for the police department, his family and his career.
Starring: Ryan Gosling (Luke Glanton), Eva Mendes (Romina), Bradley Cooper (Avery Cross), Ben Mendelsohn (Robin), Ray Liotta (Deluca), Emory Cohen (AJ), Dane DeHaan (Jason), Mahershala Ali (Kofi), Gabe Fazio (Scott), Rose Byrne (Jennifer Cross), Harris Yulin (Al Cross), Robert Clohessy (Chief Weirzbowski), Bruce Greenwood (Bill Killcullen), Kayla Smalls (Vanessa)
In a performance that was somewhat similar to his role from Blue Valentine, Gosling represented a man with little conviction and a severe temper that made him go from detached to desperate. Mendes was probably the most compelling of the characters as she had to represented a woman conflicted by the advances of a persistent and alluring man while trying to do what is best for her son and the man she sees as an ideal partner. While the critics seemed to be impressed with Cooper’s performance and it was one filled with drama, his role from Silver Linings Playbook was much more impressive. Liotta is just as much of a snake as in many of his other roles, where the young talents of Cohen and DeHaan represent the fading morality of the youth.
Derek Cianfrance reconnected with Gosling after Blue Valentine to develop this three-part story of small-town drama. The first act focused on Luke’s attempt to become a responsible father while highlighting how his past and skill set challenged him from leading a moral life. Luke gets addicted to the thrill of robbery because he no longer achieved that thrill through his motorcycle feats. His selfishness led to his downfall, as he was both arrested on aggravated assault and eventually trapped due to his obsession of the thrill. The second act shifted gears to Avery and his challenges with wanting to be an upstanding officer in a corrupt department. While he was not exactly squeaky-clean, he learned that he was going to have to blackmail in order to save his skin and advance his career. The final act took a jump to the future and explored how the past can catch up to you. In this case, it was in the form of Luke’s and Avery’s sons and their exploits as volatile youths.
While the performances were incredibly strong and the story was gripping through the first two acts, the final act was met with a little less cohesion. There is always a interest in seeing the story after the story, but Cianfrance may have tried to do too much with that jump. AJ’s and Jason’s stories were not as clearly defined in the sense of how they became the troubled youths they appeared to be. It was clear that something caused Avery and Jennifer to split but there was no indication of what happened with AJ’s development to put him in such dire straits. Similar issues come up for Jason, who appears to live with a loving family and ends up a mess as well. While the mirroring of legacies and challenges is interesting, it feels that it drags on a bit too much while also failing to properly set up how each of the boys actually ended up in their depressed and challenged states.
This is a film that rests on its strong acting and engaging story. While not all three acts have the same strengths, Gosling pulls you in, Cooper keeps you guessing and Cohen/DeHaan provide an interesting symbolism of how legacy is not always a positive thing.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5