Live By Night tells the story of gangster Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) as
he rises, falls then rises again through the criminal underworlds of
Boston and Miami. Chronicling his life throughout the prohibition era
in America, Joe becomes involved in the most nefarious of situations.
He survives a bank heist gone wrong in which a police officers winds up
dead, he survives a long stint in prison caused by the betrayal of his
femme fatale Emma (Sienne Miller), he goes through so much in the film
that you start to wonder less about what is going to happen than as to
why it is happening. This is a film that feels incomplete, rushed and
all together shallow. Ben Affleck, who has given us some pretty
incredible films up until now, shows his weaknesses as a screenwriter
but continues to give us more than enough to chew when it comes to his
While I did want more out of this film, there is no denying that Affleck can most certainly stage some breathtaking action sequences. He knows when to get close, he knows what to show and when to show it. Live By Night is no exception to that standard in regards to how everything is shown. Some major highlights of the film include a vicious car chase through a country back road, copious amounts of bloody shootouts and brutal fights throughout yet we feel disengaged by what is going on. We don't know enough about anyone in the film outside of Joe to be connected to them, let alone feel bad when someone dies. To be quite honest, the film is 128 minutes and has about 100 characters in it...none of which you end up caring about. This comes down on the shoulders of Affleck as a screenwriter. In many ways, the film plays out like a highlight reel to a HBO mini-series such as Boardwalk Empire. It never really lets us simmer in slow burn human drama and instead gives us an action packed gangster film that is more on the level of Gangster Squad than White Heat.
If there is one thing that I've grown to expect going into a Ben Affleck film, it is that I'm bound to be blown away by the cast if all else fails. While the performances in this film are good, some of them even excellent, it really doesn't translate well when you just don't care about them. Ironically, in a film that is geared towards male characters and dominated by such, the women in this film give tremendous performances. Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana stand out as two performances that were truly powerhouse even if their screen time collectively added up to maybe twenty minutes all together.
Then there is Chris Messina, who was a bit hard to judge here, considering he is playing a character from the 1930s underworld, but it was extremely hard to take him seriously during times when you wanted nothing more than to be able to take him seriously. At first, I figured he was the comic relief but then I was left waiting for him to drop the act and be serious for a moment. While I know Messina is a phenomenal actor, I just could not take him seriously in this role. Unfortunately, I thought he was too over the top. No matter what my thoughts on Messina were, he still did not compare to how I felt about Ben Affleck's performance as Joe.
While I am a big fan of Ben Affleck, I was severely let down by his performance in this film. I've read about the differences between the film and the novel regarding the age and honestly, I don't really care about that. The film is the film and the book is the book. That isn't my issue here. My issue is how wooden Affleck went to portray Joe. There was nothing new, nothing deep about this character which is pretty disappointing considering both The Town and Gone Baby Gone had tremendous lead characters that made us care about what happens to them. Unfortunately, this isn't the case here. This film does very little to make us care about any character, let alone our lead. Many will argue that watching a criminal empire get built is fascinating no matter how many times we see it, and I agree with that. But when you have someone as uninteresting as Joe Coughlin, something that is supposed to be fun to watch turns into a chore. That is probably the most frustrating thing about this film.
Overall, Live by Night is a throwback to classical gangster films that serves as Ben Affleck's worst directorial effort. With that being said, the film still features some truly thrilling action sequences that are bound to satisfy many even if the film is a bloated mess that should have been larger than what is or nothing at all.
Live by Night
Action / Crime / Drama
Live by Night
Action / Crime / Drama
Boston, 1926. The '20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one-neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover-can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt. Joe embarks on a dizzying...
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March 10, 2017 at 07:53 PM