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Live By Night

Live By Night

Released 13 January 2017
Director Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper
Writer(s) Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson, Jennifer Todd
Origin United States
Running Time 128 minutes
Genre Crime, drama
Rating 15A

Mob rules.

In these tough economic times, an increasing number of people are being forced to hop off their current career path in search of pastures new. When Ben Affleck first became a huge name in Hollywood, his chiselled jaw was enough to carry him from sub-par film to sub-par film but there was a downward slope right ahead of him that was hard to ignore. To his credit, Affleck decided to head behind the camera and his directing career thus far has been solidly impressive. Nevertheless, judging by his new film Live by Night, Affleck's reluctance to give up the limelight completely may scupper his chances at becoming a truly respected director.

Live by Night is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and showcases his pulpy but original storytelling in a narrative that moves beyond the usual mobster movie cliches. Affleck stars as Joe Coughlin, a low level stick up artist in Prohibition-era Boston. Low-level is how he likes it but unfortunately, when he becomes involved with Emma, the moll of an Irish mob boss (Sienna Miller), he is dragged into the big leagues. Joe ends up leaving Boston for Florida, where he runs rum and narcotics with the help of the local Cuban population. This multi-cultural environment leads him into confrontations with the KKK and local law enforcement. Joe attempts to build an empire while staying true to his own moral compass.

This unusual setting is the trump card of Live by Night. Leaving the big cities for the humid, Latin jazz clubs of Florida is a refreshing move that breathes new life into a well-worn scenario. Sadly there is an artificiality that hangs over the whole production thanks to its leading man. Affleck never inhabits the skin of his character. The deadpan nature of his delivery, no doubt meant to denote Joe's damaged character, just comes across as lifeless and awkward. He is acted off the screen by every other actor in the fantastic cast – Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Elle Fanning. These actors fit right in to their environment while Affleck looks like he's on his way to a fancy dress party in an ill-fitting suit.

This disappointing performance from Affleck does infect the whole film (he's barely off the screen) but that's not to say that the film is completely ruined by it. As I mentioned, the rest of the cast do excellent jobs and the film is handsomely shot. Live by Night is ultimately a frustrating piece of filmmaking but is easy to watch and passingly entertaining.

- Linda O'Brien