Not a lot happens in Schenectady, New York -- which may make it the perfect setting for The Place Beyond the Pines.  This drama in three acts focuses on the lives of two very different people that wind up intersecting in a tragic way.
Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a quiet stunt motorcycle rider for a travelling carnival.  When he returns to Schenectady after a year, he is surprised to find out that his fling with local waitress Romina (Eva Mendez) created their son, Jason.  Luke quits the carnival and wants to stay to help raise his son; but he doesn't have any prospects for the future, and Romina and Jason live with Kofi (Mahershala Ali) in his home.

Luke gets a job as a mechanic working for Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), a decrepit garage owner.  Robin also has a plan that will make them both some dough: Luke will rob banks, speed off on his motorcycle, and quickly drive into Robin's waiting truck.  This seems to work for Luke and his fledgling family, until things start going wrong.
Next is Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a rookie cop with a law degree, ambition, and honesty.   He finds himself suddenly turned into a public hero -- and facing corruption in his precinct, mainly from the elderly Deluca (Ray Liotta).  He also has domestic tensions, as his wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) wants him to retire and stay at home with her and their baby Avery Junior, but he wants to keep advancing.

For the final act, we jump ahead fifteen years.  Avery "AJ" Junior (Emory Cohen) and Jason (Dane DeHaan) are teenage delinquents, happy to ditch class, buy and steal drugs, and get wasted together.  But they don't know that their parents' lives had crossed before; and that will have tragic consequences.

The Place Beyond the Pines starts out almost terminally slow, yet when the focus shifts the threads of the story start connecting and bringing everything into place.  The actors all give fine, laid-back performances as their characters struggle with both family and success in a quiet, uneventful town.  This movie is at times a little too deliberate with its pacing, but by the end it delivers a fairly satisfying conclusion.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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