Starring Ryan Gosling as Luke, a motorcyclist stuntman and bank robber, and Bradley Cooper, as Avery a police officer and aspiring lawyer. Ryan Gosling has a child, Jason, by Romina (Eva Mendes) and tries to provide for him by robbing banks. On one robbery he is chased and shot by Avery, what will happen? Avery is contacted by corrupt cop Ray Liotta who finds the robbery money in Eva Mendes’ house. We then jump fifteen years to where the son of Avery (Bradley Cooper) is bad and the son of Luke (Ryan Gosling) is impressionable. There is a confrontation between Jason and Avery. Will it end well?
Ryan Gosling is supposed to be the big star at the moment, he’s certainly cornered the motoring and motorcycling roles. He seems to have James Dean’s ability to root a presence and its mood and let those around him respond to this. I’m impervious to his supposed acting charisma though I was intermittently sympathetic with him as the failed husband in Blue Valentine. In this film, he’s the confused drifter looking in at domestic bliss as he watches the christening of his boy, reminding us of Glenn Close looking in at unachievable happiness in Fatal Attraction. Bradley Cooper is watchable as the ambitious cop (with the inevitable legal bigwig of a father whom he must please). Romina’s new partner is the predictably nice and bland Mr Reliable in contrast to the feckless Luke. Ray Liotta is convincingly menacing as the corrupt cop, scarily alert to imagined belittlements, the controlling bully.
There are creaking implausibilities in this film. Would it really be so easy for Luke to rob banks by just walking in with a sack? Given today’s technology I doubt this would be possible. Wouldn’t the perspex screens afford more convincing protection to the bank clerks? Wouldn’t all the banks be on the alert after his first robbery? He expertly speeds off on his motorbike, so wouldn’t his stuntman job make him a prime suspect? Was his accomplice caught, if not, then how did Avery know he was Luke’s friend? Avery eventually deals with the corrupt Ray Liotta but what was he doing with these bad cops in the first place given his career aspirations and ethical concerns? Avery’s confrontation with Jason looks very contrived, an enactment of attempted revenge for the killing of his father by Avery who is guilt ridden and seeks absolution. I think this is meant to be a sort of resolution as he finds his spiritual father. The two sons are prodigal sons who suffer for the sins of their fathers. This becomes all rather biblical, the predictable binary of good father/bad son, bad father/good son. This is very neat and dramatically absorbing but it has an ultimately unconvincing symmetry to it, it’s too black and white. As usual in such crime dramas, women take stereotypically passive and suffering roles. They are either single mothers trying to make a living or decoratively beautiful wives always amenable to the requirements of the male ego. Watchable but badly flawed.