“Live by Night” Review

14 January, 2017

Director: Ben Affleck
Screenwriter: Ben Affleck
Director of Photography: Robert Richardson
Cast: Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning

Synopsis: Self-proclaimed ‘outlaw’ Joe Coughlin stumbles into life of crime, finding love and money while displaying a certain level of dispassion towards both his Irish heritage and the Italian mobsters who aid in his business ventures.

Live by Night Review:

Skilfully capturing the woozy Prohibition Era ambience with an endless array of custom-made suits and swirling cigarette smoke, Ben Affleck drives himself to distraction in a movie void of solid emotional groundwork. “Live by Night” is undoubtedly proficient in style and status but it has no fresh meat on display as it slips effortlessly into an over-saturated sub-genre without making much of an impression. The film has the bravura and persistence of classics like “Miller’s Crossing” and “Once Upon a Time in America” but its mark is delible and fleeting, like a blanket of snow laid at the turn of the season.

On the surface, “Live by Night” is a wonderfully composed movie with an eye for detail and a passion for the bloody side of gangster warfare as Affleck clearly gets his kicks out of a good shootout but he’s easily distracted and weighed down by his position as writer, director, and producer. Why he insists on taking on such crippling passion projects is still a mystery, especially for a guy tasked with producing films as gigantic as “Justice League” alongside his everyday output. Although his skill at bringing hundreds of tiny elements together is always remarkable, even when he misses the mark as the head of production.

Dropping like flies, key characters come and go like A-Listers on a tight contract, often suspiciously killed off-screen in a similar manner to unwanted soap opera actors. “Live by Night” works this into its plot as twists and turns emerge but the overall feeling is one of hurriedness in the moments that aren’t in need of some fine-tuning. All nit-picking aside, the movie remains tough throughout and is strongly delivered by Affleck who was born with the unreadable face of an old-school gangster. If only he had the screenwriting chops to match it, then it would be a rather different turn of events.



Review Date
Live by Night