Mainstream audiences may be disappointed that this isn't a gritty thriller pitting the acting talents of Gosling and Cooper against each other, as it's instead a boldly artful, often moving drama. The three-part structure may soften the emotional punch, but a raw script and intimate direction let the actors find real resonance in every scene.
The title is a loose translation of the Mohawk word Schenectady, the New York town where the story is set. In the first section, carnival stunt rider Luke (Gosling) returns to town and tries to rekindle a previous fling with Romina (Mendes). When he discovers that his last visit produced a son, he decides to leave the circus and settle down, taking a job with a local mechanic (Mendelsohn). To make some extra cash, the two team up to rob banks, which puts Luke on a collision course with beat cop Avery (Cooper), who has a wife (Byrne) and young son of his own. Years later, their now-teen sons Jason and AJ (DeHaan and Cohen) discover a past connection they knew nothing about.
To explore the generational ramifications of these men's actions, the film switches perspective twice, first from Luke to Avery and finally to Jason and AJ. But the script never simplifies anyone into "good" or "bad": these are complex people facing difficult situations the best way they can. And sometimes their choices lead to tragic consequences. With this structure, though, the characters are somewhat fragmented, and only Avery emerges as a fully rounded figure, giving Cooper the best role in the film as he becomes unable to work out what is right and wrong, even though he knows it in his gut.
But all of the actors are excellent. Gosling and Mendes find searing chemistry between them. And DeHaan and Cohen deliver their meatiest performances to date. To make this work, director Cianfrance keeps his direction tight, sticking so close to each character that scenes sometimes feel uncomfortably intimate. And he also finds real beauty in even the most squalid settings, while scenes get darker and more emotional as the story progresses over about 15 years. So even if the film feels overlong and fractured, it still gets under the skin in ways that linger.
Run time: 140 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th April 2013
Box Office USA: $21.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $44.4M
Distributed by: Focus Features
Production compaines: Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Electric City Entertainment, Verisimilitude
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 158 Rotten: 39
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Producer: Lynette Howell, Sidney Kimmel, Alex Orlovsky, Jamie Patricof
Screenwriter: Derek Cianfrance, Ben Coccio, Darius Marder
Starring: Ryan Gosling as Luke, Bradley Cooper as Avery Cross, Eva Mendes as Romina, Dane DeHaan as Jason, Emory Cohen as AJ, Rose Byrne as Jennifer, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali as Kofi, Bruce Greenwood as Bill Killcullen, Harris Yulin as Al Cross, Ben Mendelsohn as Robin, Ray Liotta as Deluca, Robert Clohessy as Chief Weirzbowski, Gabe Fazio as Scott, Olga Merediz as Malena, Anthony Pizza as Baby Jason, Craig Van Hook as Jack, Luca Pierucci as Doc Crowley, Jennifer Sober as Public Defender, Kayla Smalls as Vanessa, Frank J. Falvo as Pharmacy Clerk, Hugh T. Farley as State Senator, Greta Seacat as Cory Gilbeau
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