Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Movie Review #553: "Live By Night" (2016)

Director: Ben Affleck
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 9 minutes
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An Irish outlaw from Boston rises through the ranks of the Italian mafia by running rum in prohibition-era Florida.

"Live by Night" is written and directed by Ben Affleck and is based on the novel by Dennis Lehan. The film also stars Ben Affleck as self-described Irish outlaw Joe Coughlin, a former soldier who became tired of following orders, and post-war, came back to America to embark on a life of crime. At first, he ran a small crew and did his own thing, until he had a violent run-in with Irish mob boss Albert White, played by Robert Glenister, over their mutual lover Emma Gould, played by Sienna Miller. Following a three year stint in the Charlestown prison, he gets out of jail and joins up with the Italian mafia to handle their rum trade in Florida under the condition that Joe eventually gets to kill Albert White, who has since taken up shop in Florida after being run out of Boston by the Italians.

"Live by Night" is an extremely technically proficient film in terms of the way it looks. When it comes to the costumes, sets, acting, cinematography, and visuals, this film captures the era beautifully and efficiently. Ben Affleck continues to show he has a wonderful eye for film-making. It has a stellar cast including all of the actors mentioned above, as well as Brendan Gleeson, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Matthew Maher, Chris Messina, and Max Casella. It has many moments that are captivating, especially in the early portion of the movie. The first 25-35 minutes are extremely enthralling and include a fantastic car chases sequence. Once Joe leaves prison and heads for Florida, however, "Live By Night" becomes rather aimless, unfocused, and slow. There are still action sequences sprinkled throughout the rest of the film as Coughlin's crew has showdowns with a rival gang and the KKK, and the ultimate climactic shootout is really exciting and bloody. Unfortunately, the second act and beyond run into some poor pacing issues as the plot and narrative start to drag. At some points, the story becomes downright dull. We felt like we were just sitting in the theater waiting for it to move forward in an interesting manner with little to no relief.

We can't help but feel there is better, more engaging movie somewhere in the "Live By Night" footage that was left on the cutting room floor. We also wonder if Affleck's other WB projects made him do a rush job on this picture because it does feel a bit hurried. If only it were edited differently, it could have been completely different viewing experience. Despite all of the good stuff it has going for it, as Ben Affleck knows, the cardinal sin of film-making is to produce something that's dull, even if it's only dull half the time.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 33%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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