I would expect a film like this to be released closer to Christmas but it’s only March and here it is. This is certainly the first Oscar contender for the 2014 award show. It is superbly directed, acted, scripted and just all around an excellent film. With a talented director and an all-star cast the possibility of failure was slim. This is an epic film, much more than the trailer let on.
In the heavily wooded area of Schenectady, New York, Luke prepares to ride his motorcycle inside of a steel ball. This is what he does; he travels from town to town with a carnival and does stunt riding. During some down time he runs into an old friend. Her sudden appearance is too odd to ignore so he finds where she lives and visits. When he shows up her mother answers the door holding a baby. He asks who the child belongs to and she tells him that the baby boy is his. After a year of not seeing or hearing from this woman he discovers he has a child. Needless to say he is caught off guard and aims to find some answers. He drives to the diner where Romina works and confronts her. She confirms that the baby is his and she had no intention of telling him. After a long night of thinking he decides to quit the carnival and stay in New York to help raise his son. Romina however wants him to leave; she doesn’t want her son knowing this man as his father. Luke isn’t exactly a standup citizen and she wants nothing to do with him. Being the kind of person he is he ignores her plea to leave and instead finds a minimum wage job fixing cars right in town.
Not long into his new job it becomes very clear that he does not make enough to support his new family. His boss, another not so decent person suggests a more illegal method of obtaining funds. He tells Luke that back in the day he used to rob banks and with Luke’s skills on a motorcycle he would be perfect for the heist business. Reluctantly, knowing he can’t support his family, Luke agrees to rob some banks. He does one, no problem. He does a second and everything goes well enough. After an altercation with Romina’s boyfriend Luke decides that one bank at a time is not enough, he wants two a day. In light of the recent police attention due to Luke’s assault the boss backs out of the whole thing. Luke continues on not thinking clearly and makes a mistake. After forgetting his entire disguise he robs the bank anyway. As he makes his getaway he rips on to the road only to be met with a cop car. He begins an exciting chase that ends with Luke hiding out in a house. The officer that approaches the house is a rookie named Avery Cross, played by Bradley Cooper. Luke knows he’s cornered so he makes one last phone call to Romina. He asks her to never tell their son who he was. It is at this moment that Cross arrives at the door; he yells through the door for Luke to put the gun down. Cross is met with silence so he kicks the door in. Almost immediately gunfire erupts in this small bedroom. At the same moment both Cross and Luke are struck. Cross takes a shot to the leg and Luke takes a more critical wound to the chest. The bullet being fired so closely knocks Luke out of the second floor window he was standing near and falls to his death. Cross survives and is heralded as a hero.
After the incident the police search Romina’s home because they suspect that Luke gave her some money. When they find it they say that nothing was found and they quickly leave. The police now in the car with the still injured Cross in the back seat divide up the money. Cross was raised as an honest man and can’t let this corruption go unnoticed. He decides to bring this up with the Chief and is met with hostility. Everyone sees this as a betrayal rather than a man doing what he’s supposed to do. Setting up an officer, Cross gains leverage over the Chief and in return gets him to promote Cross to assistant D.A. This one small incident of robbery and corruption creates a ripple effect that will change the lives of Cross’s and Luke’s children fifteen years later.
This is so much more than a heist film; it is a story of fathers and sons. Life is precarious and violent and must be taken one day at a time. Sometimes one decision can change the lives of everyone around you forever. The only thing you can do is hope the choices you make are positive ones. You must also remember that the choices of your parents do not have to dictate your life; the path is yours to choose. This is such a wonderful drama and if you have the chance please see this. It is slow a majority of the time but it is always engaging and never lets you go. It is full of character development and by the end you really feel that you’ve gone on a journey with these people. They are ordinary people thrown into extraordinary situations. One single day reverberates through their lives and the way they deal with it is heart wrenching and raw. This is an epic that spans two decades and is brought to the screen with expertise and precision. It has a heart and smashes it into pieces. Life is funny in the most depressing and random of ways.
Rated R for: language throughout, some violence, teen drug and alcohol use, and a sexual reference
Runtime: 140 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan
Directed By: Derek Cianfrance
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5 / Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls