Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movie Review: LIVE BY NIGHT

Welcome back to the Ben Affleck mini-series of reviews! This series will review each of his four directorial feature films. This review will be for his latest release LIVE BY NIGHT!

Live By Night is the latest film from Ben Affleck. He directs, writes, and stars in this adaptation of the Denis Lahane novel of the same name (his second adaptation of a Lahane novel after the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone). This film centers around the son of a police superintendent who is loosely involved in criminal affairs and after a prison sentence dives head first into the rum production and distribution business in Florida during Prohibition on behalf of an Italian Mafioso from Boston. The film stars Affleck alongside Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Brendan Gleeson, Matthew Maher, Sienna Miller, Remo Girone, and Robert Glenister.

After seeing Live by Night I had a very hard time deciding how I felt about it. I like this film in large part. I think that this is definitely one of the coolest and most engaging period gangster films ever made. The production and costume design work in this film is off the charts great and the skill applied to make gripping action sequences (including a car chase with the old cars) was impeccable. I also thought that the directorial vision of this film was clear and very well executed (although there were portions of the story that felt awkward and abrupt and were maybe cut for time).

I also found the majority of the performances to be really solid. Elle Fanning was excellent, Matthew Maher was really interesting, Chris Messina shone, and Brendan Gleeson was absolutely superb. I really enjoyed the authentic feel of prohibition era Boston and Florida and how the actors really felt like they belonged in the period.

Which brings me to major issue number 1: I didn’t like Ben Affleck acting in his role. He does an ok job technically acting, but for some reason he felt totally out of place. His look is, perhaps, too modern, I just couldn’t buy him in this time period. Something about it was just off to me and it took me out of the movie a lot throughout the runtime.

My second big issue is that the film has a terrible conclusion. There is a moment where this film could have ended in an absolute mic drop kind of way but it passes up that opportunity to resolve some storylines that really didn’t need to be and to offer up this tacked on ending that really hurt my feelings about the movie. I cannot understand why that decision was made. It just felt off and totally out of place for all the good decisions made throughout the rest of the runtime.

Overall, I like Live By Night but I should have loved it and the fact that I had the two big issues that I did really bothers me. This is still an ok movie at the end of the day, but given Affleck’s career I have come to expect more from him.

Ryan’s Score: 7.5/10

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