Ben Affleck stars, writes, and directs this Prohibition Era Gangster Drama that charts the rise of a World War One Veteran who turns to crime on his return to America. From his time as a garden variety bank robber, we see Joe Coughlin (Affleck) losing focus as he is dating the head of the Irish Mob’s Girlfriend, going to jail, and becoming the head of the Italian Mob’s Florida Rum running market.
This film was meant to be released in December 2017, and for some reason it was rushed through to our cinema’s now. I doubt that Mr. Affleck will be happy with the response that I see coming from less worthy reviewers than yours truly but he shouldn’t, this is still a good Gangster movie and the phrase that will haunt it forever is ‘What should have been!’ Those of you out there that care about Batman movies of the future with Ben at the helm should be contacting Warner Brothers and DC Comics to allow him to take his time and do it right. When he gets to take his time we get Argo, and The Town, when rushed we get this. It’s fine, honestly I’d sit through it any day of the week, it’s just not what lies beneath the film I got to see. You get the feeling that we were meant to see this generations Once Upon in America but the rash editing and over narration are killers to the feeling.
You can see the hope that Affleck had for this film, the performances are fine, and we’ve got Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, and more giving their all. The problem is that with the rush job in the editing suite leads to us not caring too much about the characters and the disjointing of the story. It’s a pain the backside really.
The production values of the film are top-notch and the creation of the era is done perfectly. Sienna Miller gives a great Irish accent along with one of the stand out performances in the film. She plays the Gangsters Moll who falls in love with Joe, with doomed results. Brendan Gleeson shows up as Afflecks father and I wanted to see more of their relationship as their chemistry together is quite good.
The film suffers from the lack of caring about the characters, you care about Joe because he’s practically in every scene of the movie. But the majority of the rest of the characters live and die without us giving a whole lot of damn about their existence, not a good thing in a two-hour movie. The film uses the history of the prohibition era, and the KKK, as tension builders, although at some points it seems farcical in the storyline it works because at this point we all know the history. The violence, and realistic feel of the Gangsters, feels as though it was watered down or left on the cutting room floor. The Narration of Joe telling his own story gets to feel as though you are listening to an audio book, which I’ve no problem with, as audio books are a good thing, but not when I’m in a cinema. They are better when I’m at home in my bean bag chair, in my undies, eating nachos and drinking vodka.
What could have been in Live by Night is the new Gangster movie, the new Once Upon a Time, getting close to the first Godfather movie, what we’ve got is Godfather three, not terrible but just not what could have been. I hope that for the sake of getting more stuff like Argo and The Town that Mister Affleck sticks to his guns and the studios allow him to be the creative he can be. If that means someone else wears the cape and the cowl then I’m fine with that. Ben stick to your guns, you have my support.
Director: Ben Affleck
Writers: Ben Affleck (screenplay), Dennis Lehane (based on the novel by)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson