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The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A mysterious and mythical motorcycle racer, Luke, (Ryan Gosling) drives out of a traveling carnival globe of death and whizzes through the backstreets of Schenectady, New York, desperately trying to connect with a former lover, Romina, (Eva Mendes) who recently and secretly gave birth to the stunt rider's son. In an attempt to provide for his new family, Luke quits the carnival life and commits a series of bank robberies aided by his superior riding ability. The stakes rise as Luke is put on a collision course with an ambitious police officer, Avery Cross, (Bradley Cooper) looking to quickly move up the ranks in a police department riddled with corruption. The sweeping drama unfolds over fifteen years as the sins of the past haunt the present days lives of two high school boys wrestling with the legacy they've inherited. The only refuge is found in the place beyond the pines.

  • Luke (Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling) is in constant motion, a high-wire motorcycle stunt performer who travels from town to town with the carnival. Passing through Schenectady in upstate New York, he tries to reconnect with a former lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), only to learn that she has in his absence given birth to their son Jason. Luke resolves to forsake life on the road and to provide for his newfound family, taking a job as car mechanic with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn). Robin soon discovers Luke's special talents, and proposes to partner with him in a string of spectacular bank robberies. But it is only a matter of time before Luke will run up against the law - which comes in the form of Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Avery is an ambitious rookie cop navigating a local police department ruled by the menacingly corrupt detective Deluca (Ray Liotta). When Avery, just beginning to balance his profession and his family life with wife Jennifer (Rose Byrne) and their infant son AJ, confronts Luke, the full consequences will reverberate into the next generation. It is then that the two sons, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), must face their fateful, shared legacy.

  • The concurrent lives of the families of Luke Glanton and Avery Cross in Schenectady, New York are presented. Luke is a motorcycle stuntman working the state fair circuit. He reconnects with Romina, with who he had a casual affair, and learns that he is the father of her infant child, Jason. Despite Romina not asking Luke for anything, especially as she is now living with another man, Luke begins to focus his life on providing for Jason at whatever cost. Family man Avery - married to Jennifer, they who have an infant son, AJ - is a rookie police officer, following in the footsteps of his father. Avery felt he could do more good in law and order as a cop than a lawyer, as he has a law school education. Luke and Avery's one and only encounter sets off a series of events which profoundly effect both their lives, both personal and professional, and the lives of their respective families, especially their offspring.

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  • A motorcycle stunt rider turns to robbing banks as a way to provide for his lover and their newborn child, a decision that puts him on a collision course with an ambitious rookie cop navigating a department ruled by a corrupt detective.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Luke and Romina

    Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a locally-famous motorcycle stuntman working in a traveling act for state fairs. During the fair in Altamont, New York, Glanton gets a visit from ex-lover, Romina (Eva Mendes), and learns that he is the father of her son. Glanton quits his job as a stuntman to stay in town and provide for his child, but Romina does not want him in the child's life, as she has become involved in a relationship with Kofi (Mahershala Ali).

    Glanton turns to Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), an auto repair shop owner, for part-time employment as he continuously attempts to insert himself into his son's life. Making only minimum wage, Glanton asks Robin for more money to care for his son. Robin reveals that he was once a bank robber, and offers to partner with Glanton to hit several banks in the area. The duo perform several successful heists, in which Glanton performs the robbery, then uses his motorbike as a getaway vehicle and drives it into an unmarked truck driven by Robin. Glanton uses the new money to win back Romina's trust and visits her and his son more often. Kofi objects to his presence and the two have an altercation at Kofi's house, resulting in Glanton's arrest for assault after he hits Kofi in the head with a pair of pliers.

    After Robin has bailed him out of jail, Glanton immediately wants to resume their bank robberies. Robin objects, not wanting to press their luck, and the two have a falling-out that results in Robin dismantling the motorbike and Glanton taking back the bail money he owed Robin at gunpoint. Glanton attempts to rob a bank alone and is pursued by police. He falls off his bike during the chase and seeks refuge in a residents' home, where he is pursued by Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper). Glanton, sensing defeat, corners himself upstairs and calls Romina. Just before Cross confronts him, Glanton asks Romina not to tell their child about who he was. Cross enters the room and fires the first shot; Glanton falls out of the second-story window after shooting Cross in the leg. Cross looks out the window to find Glanton dead on the pavement.



    Avery

    Cross, who is a low-ranking officer, gains hero-status after his take-down of the notorious Glanton. Cross feels remorse about shooting Glanton, especially upon discovering that Glanton had a son, as Cross has an infant of his own. Cross's fellow officers Scotty (Gabe Fazio) and Deluca (Ray Liotta) are corrupt and unlawfully seize the robbed money from Romina's home and give the "lion's share" to Cross. Cross eventually explains the situation to his commanding officer, who dismisses the charges, unwilling to indict his own department. Still seeking justice, Cross manages to record a fellow officer asking him to illegally remove cocaine from the evidence locker Cross supervises for use in a separate case. Cross uses the recording to get a position as the assistant district attorney.



    Jason and AJ

    Fifteen years later, Cross is running for public office, and has to deal with his now teenage son AJ (Emory Cohen), who has gotten into trouble with drugs. Cross has separated from his wife (Rose Byrne) and agrees to take AJ into his home, transferring him into the local high school. There AJ befriends a boy named Jason (Dane DeHaan); neither AJ nor Jason knows that he is the son of Luke Glanton. The two are arrested for felony drug possession, and, when Cross is called in to pick up his son, he recognizes Jason's name. He uses his influence to get Jason's charge dropped to a misdemeanor and orders AJ to stay away from Jason (though the boys continue to talk).

    Jason seeks the truth about his biological father, whom Romina refuses to discuss with him. His stepfather, Kofi, finally tells him his name. He googles his father's name and discovers Glanton's past. He visits Robin's auto shop, and Robin tells Jason more about Luke, including his superior motorbiking skills. Jason eventually realizes that AJ's father is the man who killed his father. After a fight with AJ, which leaves Jason hospitalized, Jason breaks into Cross's house and beats AJ at gunpoint. When Cross arrives, Jason holds him hostage and orders him to drive into the woods. Although Jason intended to kill Cross, he reconsiders after Cross tearfully apologizes for killing Jason's father. Jason takes Cross's wallet and suit coat and leaves Cross unharmed. In the wallet Jason finds a photo of himself as a baby with his parents, that Cross had stolen from the evidence locker.

    Cross wins his bid for New York Attorney General, his son AJ at his side. Jason runs away from home and buys a motorbike, with the intention of heading west to make his own life as a traveler, like his father.

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