LIVE BY NIGHT
2 (out of 4 stars)
Ben Affleck's newest film in which he writes, directs and stars is Live by Night. It's a Prohibition era film set in the streets of Boston and Tampa. Reminiscent of Once Upon a Time in America and Boardwalk Empire the film is a greedy and violent expose of a group of would be Boston gangsters lead by Joe Coughlin (Affleck) who sets up shop in Florida taking on the local opposition and the Klu Klux Klan.
While I liked this movie, it did have its flaws. Now that Affleck is an award-winning director and has become a major star, he has diminished his role of acting in favor of writing and directing. Unfortunately, that lack of realism shows through all too well in this film. The writing was shallow, the character development was weak and his own performance was unimpressive.
One of the big problems that I had with this film were the scenes in Tampa, where everyone is sweating bullets, Affleck is calm, cool and collected, unaffected from the heat while wearing a three-piece suit. Totally out of place in the real world. It's things like this that distracted me from this film. My mind wandered constantly when I could see these obvious problems on the screen and saying to myself what was he thinking? This is one of the problems incurred while directing yourself which is why I always prefer actors and directors be separated in a film. Also, the title, Live by Night is misleading. Almost every scene occurred during the day.
There were however, a few great performances turned in by the cast. Brendan Gleeson who plays Joe’s father, Police commissioner Thomas Coughlin was a believable, tough Boston Irish cop who bullies his way to get what he wants. Joe’s fellow henchman Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) was totally believable as the sidekick and a stellar scene stealing performance was that of RD Pruitt (Matthew Maher) who plays the ignorant KKK with his slurring speech. Academy Award Winner Chris Cooper (Chief Figgis) puts in a wonderful performance as well. The rest of the cast Elle Fanning as Loretta Figgis, Robert Glenister as arch rival Albert White, Zoe Saldana as Graciela, Joe’s love interest and Remo Girone as Maso Pescatore, the Big Crime boss were adequate in their roles but no great performances.
If you enjoy the HBO series Boardwalk Empire or like old films about prohibition and the exploits of FBI ‘G-Man’ Eliot Ness, you'll like this movie as well. It's not required to be seen on the big screen but don’t pay to see it. Just wait till it hits your local TV set.