You all probably remember the ads for "The Place Beyond the Pines" from a few years ago. You know, Ryan Gosling riding a dual sport and robbing banks? Ring a bell? While that's part of the movie, it is so, so much more than that. In addition to Gosling, the movie also features Bradley Cooper, Ray Liota, and Eva Mendes, and it got plenty of critical praise–including four out of four stars from Richard Roeper and an 80 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The first hour or so is a pretty good motorcycle heist movie. I mean, tell me you don't want to see this movie after watching the kickass trailer.
At the beginning of "The Place Beyond the Pines", Gosling plays "Handsome" Luke Glanton, a carny and stunt rider on the "ball of death" who performs in a traveling act at state fairs. He returns to a Schenectady, New York, after a year away to find his former lover Romina–played by Mendes– now has a baby boy that looks a lot like him. Wanting to do the right thing, he decides to leave the traveling show and stick around to help raise the baby. While out riding through the woods one day trying to get his head together, Luke meets another local ne'er-do-well and after they get to talking they hatch a plan to start robbing banks.
Apparently Gosling is a rider himself and did much of the riding in the movie. In fact, reportedly about 75 percent of it is really him. I'm not totally convinced he did any of the really hard stunts, though. Also, there seems to be a huge amount of confusion on the internet about what he is riding, much of it perpetrated by the production itself. Obviously, the bike above and for most of the movie is a Suzuki DR-Z400, which is one of the most capable, lightweight, urban getaway bikes around. For some reason, in static displays and some promotional contests, the bike was a Honda CRF230L, done up to either look like the DR-Z or a 1990s Honda XR600/XR650L. It appears much of the confusion comes from the opening of the film, where you can tell that all of the real "ball of death" riders are on identical CRF230Ls with in beat up white body work. I imagine they may have destroyed a bunch of these poor little Honda play bikes.
Obviously Mr. Gosling riding, and obviously a baby Honda
I don't want to spoil the movie by telling you too much about what happens, but there is a falling out between the partners. At some point Handsome Lukegets too ambitious, and his tweaked out buddy cuts up the DR-Z in order to keep the police off their trail. This leads Luke to start riding a Honda XR. There are quite a few dramatic motorcycle chases, with the police hot on the trail, and Luke using the off-road abilities of the bike to hop curbs and go places a cruiser can't. That's all slightly ruined by a sound designer who cut together sounds from some 2-strokes, some sport bikes, and some of the actual sounds of a 4-stroke dirt bike.
Also, this movie is nearly two and a half hours long, and all of the robbing banks with a motorcycle stuff is over less than 60 minutes into it. After that it becomes a drama about corruption within the police force and Bradley Cooper feeling like he is not worthy of the hero status suddenly bestowed upon him. Then, about an hour and a half into it, it jumps ahead 15 years and become the story of the baby boy Luke left behind.
Rotten Tomato Rating: Make no mistake, this is not a bad film. The critical response via the Tomato Meter is 80% favorable.
RideApart Worth Watching: The first hour of the movie would rate 9 out of 10 stars, with a point off for the sound effects. Prorated for the entire runtime of the film? It sinks down to a 4 or 5 star movie. Thankfully, with modern streaming, you can turn it off after the good part and get on with your life; you aren't stuck in a theater, out $12.
Worth Noting: The movie was filmed on location in upstate New York, where Schenectady is actually a native american word which translated into the film's title. As such, it doesn't look like your typical Hollywood, or even Vancouver movie shoot.
Watch For: Do the world a service, and watch this film collecting screen grabs, then fight the good fight all over the comments sections of the internet, pointing out how wrong everyone is about the bikes used. It is your duty as a motorcyclist!
I'm always looking for new and unusual events to cover and participate in, as well as movies, books and other motorcycle pop culture to consume, so drop me a line if you have a suggestion.