January 22, 2017
As I have mentioned before, I am not a fan of Ben Affleck's acting. I thought his best performance when when he played a BAD actor in "Shakespeare in Love". He has had better luck as a director with excellent results in "Gone Baby Gone" (2007), "The Town" (2010) and especially "Argo" (2012) which went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. I was almost discouraged by the long running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, but the period look of the trailer looked very intriguing so I took the bait.
Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, "Live By Night" tells the turbulent life and times of Joe Coughlin, a young man of Irish descent who chose to lead a criminal life despite being the son of a Boston police captain. The film recounts his run-ins with various gangster lords, their henchmen, the police as well as his establishment of his own crime organization in Florida under threat from the Ku Klux Klan and religious fanatics. Amidst this criminal activity, Joe had romantic liaisons with the spirited moll Emma in Boston and the elegant Cuban lady Graciela in Ybor City.
There is no doubt that the whole film looked great on the big screen. The cinematography by Robert Richardson had that nostalgic filter to augment the period atmosphere in which this film was set. The excellent period production design, costumes and hairstyles definitely brought us back to the the roaring 1920s. The technical aspects of those graphic scenes of mayhem and violence were also very realistically executed. These frenetic action scenes were really the life of this film.
I felt Ben Affleck falters not only as actor (not really a surprise); but disappointingly, also as director (especially coming from an acclaimed film like "Argo"). As director he was not able to make the long story more engaging for the audience to follow. The film tread on familiar gangster grounds and offered little more than the additional viciousness of the violence. As actor, Affleck was as dull as his stoic monotonous character. His supporting actors -- Brendan Gleeson (as his father), Chris Messina (as his sidekick) Sienna Miller (as Emma), Zoe Saldana (as Graciela) and Elle Fanning (as a zealot) -- get to liven things up more than Affleck did. 6/10.