Back in 2011, Ryan Gosling made the step from recognised bit actor to cool-as-hell leading man with his performance in Drive - a quiet man whose job as a stuntman allows him to use his "special skill set" to try and better the life of those he cares about.
Forward 2 years and Gosling returns to two things - the same type of character and to a director he has worked with before. This double date of destiny takes him to The Place Beyond The Pines. This time out those two points are somewhat different - subtle though they may be, they are enough to give you a whole different experience than that you may have been led to believe you would be undergoing. Here, Gosling's car expertise is replaced by that of a motorbike and the director he has reunited with is that of the small and intimate Blue Valentine - Derek Clanfrance and not Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn.
So, despite the trailer looking for all the world like a Drive sequel, this is definitely not. Not by a long shot. Here, Clanfrance has an epic tale to tell, but he chooses to do so in the small and intimate fashion that his Blue Valentine presented.
Here though the story is that of very different men at very different stages of their lives - in particular three certain individuals that will all be connected through a single action taken by one of them. What comes as a complete surprise - a welcome one but none-the-less distantly intriguing one - is that the film rather than the standard three acts (beginning, middle and end) feels like three separate movies. There's Gosling's carnival stunt rider story, Bradley Cooper's newbie cop story and then Dane Dehaan's loner school kid story.
Each of these has their own pace which only adds to the feeling of watching a trilogy edited together rather than just one film with a far-reaching story arc. Gosling, the first of the three, is all about movement - movement in the mental and physical sense. As the care-free stunt rider who learns of his fatherhood by accident, Gosling nails it as the loner who tries to do right by his new-found son and his "fling" from a year ago by resorting to bank robberies to provide for them. His momentum towards responsibility is matched with the speed of the bike sequences and the editing during the various bank jobs.
Cooper's "cop trying to do right despite corruption all around him" second storyline by comparison is a much slower and deeper experience. Especially after all the fast tension from before. Here, Cooper, along with the standard Ray Liotta "bad news/weasel" cop create a more basic tension - one that forever creeps up behind you, making you think that something will happen, but it never does.
The third story/act that belongs to Dehaan is both the harder one to explain and, quite frankly to swallow. Especially after what has gone before. This feels more like a soap opera than a movie but Clanfrance manages to avoid a total cheese-fest and keeps it out of the TV trash gutter and firmly in the "I'll go along for the ride" category.
At first cool enough to stand alongside the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Drive, it moves into Scorsese territory with bent cops and Liotta and with that switch, all it's cult status and hipness disappears. That doesn't mean that it falls flat or loses the viewer, no. It just asks you to take a very different journey from what you were expecting to take after watching the first 45 minutes of it.
UK release date: 12.04.13