Movie review: Ryan Gosling is explosive in multi-layered “Place Beyond the Pines”

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From the April 11, 2013 edition

Say what you will about perpetual heartthrob/internet meme Ryan Gosling, but man, that dude can brood.

“The Place Beyond the Pines” reunites Gosling with Derek Cianfrance who directed of one of his finest performances to date, the devastating love story “Blue Valentine.” Co-star Michelle Williams got a deserving Oscar nod for her performance, but Gosling was robbed.

Cianfrance goes bold in his follow-up to the intimacy of “Blue Valentine.” “Pines” might be guilty of being too ambitious. I’ll take it.

Luke (Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt rider with a traveling carnival. After a brief fling with Romina (Eva Mendes), Luke hits the road. He returns a year later to find he’s the father of a son.

Luke decides to leave the carnival to try to be a part of his son’s life — despite the fact that Romina is in a relationship with another man. His limited financial prospects lead him to resort to bank robbery in an effort to provide for his new family. This puts him on a course to cross paths with a young cop (Bradley Cooper).

“Pines” overflows with melodrama, striving to be sweeping to the point of Shakespearean. Divulging the plot twists would be criminal. I’ll just say they are plentiful, and this movie does not go where you might expect.

To put it in terms of another relative newcomer aiming big, “Pines” is to Cianfrance as “Magnolia” was to Paul Thomas Anderson. And I assume it will be similarly divisive to audiences.

Gosling has the same sort of quiet explosiveness he exhibited in “Drive,” but there’s a lot more to this movie than Gosling.

Cianfrance seems to be in a race with “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn to be the Scorsese to Gosling’s De Niro. We’ll find out who wins when “Only God Forgives” is released in July.