In 1920’s Boston during the Prohibition era, WWI veteran turned bank robber Joe Coughlin becomes involved with the mob and heads to Florida to run rum. Although he gets more than he bargained for when he tries to make it big down south in Live By Night.
So is it any good?
Based on fellow Bostonian Dennis Lahane’s novel of the same name, Ben Affleck writes, directs and ‘acts’ in this mediocre gangster flick. When you first hear his narration you soon realise that he’s tried to cram too much of the book into the film. It feels more like you’re watching a great trailer for a movie or TV show, as it rushes over the story when it should be letting us get to know the characters. Instead he uses voice over to fill in the gaps with way too much telling and not enough showing.Although he’s working with a great cast, everyone else plays stereotypical cameos watching him play dress up. He sports a very light Boston accent compared to rest of the cast who lay it on thick including Rednecks, Eyetalians and Sienna Miller’s Oirish drawl. Zoe Saldana is tragically underused as the head of a crime family who quickly transforms into window dressing. Brendan Gleeson playing Joe’s Dad is by far the most interesting thing about this movie, his character is conflicted and delivers some of the best lines. Chis Cooper and Elle Fanning also give good performances as Father/Daughter religious zealots.
“They rarely ever deal with their problems or resolve any conflict in an interesting way.”
Affleck tries too often to inject modern liberalism into a 1920’s based movie, defending the downtrodden and the racially abused, like a knight in a shining white suit. I don’t think a lead character’s wardrobe has ever distracted me more in a movie than Ben’s “I’m a big boy wearing Daddy’s clothes” look. I can only assume this is another attempt to make him standout from the rest of the sidelined cast. There’s no light and shade or complexity to anything he does, he’s just a criminal with a heart of gold, meaning that every tough guy act feels out of character. He starts off a daddy’s boy who robs banks, then suddenly knows how to run booze for the mob overnightWhat kills me is whenever we come across any real conflict, you’d like to wonder ‘how are they going to get out of this one?’, instead they just whip out incriminating photos, threaten their family or shot them in the face – job done. They rarely ever deal with their problems or resolve any conflict in an interesting way.
I’m a fan of the genre and Ben Affleck, both in front of and behind the camera but this is not his finest hour. Everything he experiences doesn’t seem to change his character, he just plods along, giving a lackluster performance. Ultimately this is a story about our relationships with our parents and how we’d do anything for those we love, it just doesn’t take the time to make us care.
LIVE BY NIGHT in Aussie Cinemas now.