“The Place Beyond the Pines” is long and often feels like it, but your time and attention is ultimately well rewarded through thoughtful, tense and moving scenarios that culminate in a very satisfying and well-earned conclusion.
Ryan Gosling’s Luke works as a motorcycle stunt performer at a traveling carnival. The ladies love him, but Luke’s got his eye on just one, Romina (Eva Mendes). During his annual stop in Schenectady, New York, Luke tries to rekindle their romance, but winds up finding out that while he was on the road, she gave birth to his son. Desperate to contribute and support his baby boy, Luke quits the carnival and repurposes his motorcycle riding abilities to robbing banks.
Then there’s Avery (Bradley Cooper), a law school graduate-turned-police officer. He’s got all the potential in the world, but a run-in with a dirty cop (Ray Liotta) sours his budding career and even his relationship with his wife (Rose Byrne) and son.
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Since when did a barrage of bullets make a crime drama a winner? Hollywood might saturate our theaters with implausible film after film where heroes narrowly escape machinegun fire or every character unites for a grand final shootout, but apparently that hasn’t consumed the Australian film industry. In writer-director David Michod’ Animal Kingdom we get the genre antithesis, a film lacking action that builds its tension through smart writing, excellent performances and calculated pacing.
Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) is an armed robber in hiding, his brother Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) is making a killing selling drugs and the youngest, Darren (Luke Ford), is just along for the ride lending a hand when necessary. So is life in the Cody family, a well-known clan in the criminal underground of Melbourne, Australia. When the boys’ nephew, J (James Frencheville), loses his mother to a heroine overdose, their mother, Smurf (Jackie Weaver), brings him into their home and ultimately into their dangerous lifestyle. The Cody brothers and Pope’s longtime friend and partner, Baz (Joel Edgerton), help J assimilate, teaching him vital lessons, most importantly how to let others know who’s king.
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With Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Eat Pray Love and The Expendables all hitting theaters this weekend David Michod’sAnimal Kingdom has some serious competition. All three of those wide releases target different demographics. Scott Pilgrim will pull in the younger crowds, Eat Pray Love primarily woman and The Expendables all the guys craving action. However, Animal Kingdom can’t be assigned a specific category; it’s different and if you’re looking for something other than the typical summer blockbuster, it delivers big time.
Animal Kingdom is Michod’s very first feature film, but having gone to film school, written Hesher and directed a number of short films, he’s certainly no novice in the industry and it shows. The piece is about the Cody family, a family very well known in the Melbourne crime underworld. Pope (Ben Mendelsohn) is the oldest of three brothers, Craig (Sullivan Stapleton) falls in the middle and Darren (Luke Ford) is the youngest. Baz (Joel Edgerton) is Pope’s partner and practically part of the family. Their mother Smurf (Jackie Weaver) is always busy watching over them and even agrees add another to the clan when her young nephew’s (James Frencheville) mother passes away. But when the Cody legacy begins to crumble, they’ve all got to reevaluate where they stand and try to survive while J just has to figure out where he belongs in this jungle.
Michod first began working on this story right after he finished film school and the time he’s put into it really paid off. But the script isn’t the only thing that required a significant amount of attention; there isn’t one element of Animal Kingdom that isn’t clearly well thought out, making the final product extremely effective. Check out what Michod had to say about every aspect of the filmmaking process from developing the script to casting the Codys, all the way down to the editing process.
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