‘Live By Night’ is Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, it further extends Affleck’s skills behind the camera. He also appears as well as writing the screenplay. This multi-tasking ensures he either lives or dies by what he presents. Set in the 1920’s American prohibition era where gangs battled out for their slice of illegal pie, it potentially gives plenty for Affleck to sink his teeth into. Unfortunately ‘Live by Night’ isn’t his best even if it highlights Affleck’s flair for stunning visuals.
In 1926, Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) decides to make a name for himself. Despite being the son of a noted police captain, his eyes initially turn to petty crime. Working his way up the local Boston gangs, he quickly climbs the ladder of illicit success. Enjoying the profits and lifestyle of his ill-gotten gains, Joe revels in the fast notoriety he has gained. Such things come at a price with rival gangs targeting Joe’s activities. Events escalate as Joe searches a way to handle his empire before things turn more deadly.
‘Live by Night’ is the least of Affleck’s directorial work. Muddled, unfocused with a script lacking in emotional depth, it doesn’t have much going for it. Joe’s efforts at establishing his empire and living by a skewed moral code promises much with little delivered. Events are quickly shown so to go to the next action set-piece. This dilutes much of the impact of the source material despite Affleck’s capable handling of the gun-fights.
The cast is generally wasted in the poor character-driven theatrics ‘Live by Night’ offers. It proves the adage that an actor is only good as the material given. Sadly what they have isn’t much. The major saving grace is the gorgeous locations and wonderful cinematography capturing the beauty and danger Joe constantly faces. Fans of gangster epics will have seen it done better before with Affleck seemingly confused about what type of movie he wants to make.
Everyone has their off days with ‘Live by Night’ giving Affleck a rare low grade. It’s by no means awful but it isn’t great either. It fails to register as anything much with Affleck’s upcoming duties as Batman hopefully giving him the confidence to try again at being a silver screen shining star.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 5
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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