There's no shortage of ambition in The Place Beyond the Pines, the third feature from writer/director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine). Essentially three related but distinct 45-minute films, The Place Beyond the Pines reaches for epic scale in its story of fathers, sons and the inescapable legacies passed on to future generations. But it never quite fulfills its apparent quest for something meaningful to say.
Playing against type, Ryan Gosling aces the difficult role of Luke Glanton, a hard-luck motorcycle stunt driver who turns to robbing banks after he discovers he has a son to support. And Bradley Cooper leaves the excesses of Silver Linings Playbook far behind as the small-town cop who inadvertently confronts Glanton and pays a heavy price. But Cianfrance disrupts his film with musical passages so emotionally specific they'd make Steven Spielberg blush, spotlighting the gulf between the film's small successes and its needlessly self-important tone. Sometimes modesty is the best policy. — KEN KORMAN