Writer: Ben Affleck (Screenplay) Dennis Lehane (Novel)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Remo Girone, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Chris Messina
Plot: A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.
Tagline – The American Dream has a price
Runtime: 2 Hours 9 Minutes
There may be spoilers the rest of the review
Verdict: Overly Long & Complex
Story: Live by Night starts as we meet Joe Coughlin (Affleck) a former soldier in World War I, who returned to Boston to live the life of crime as an outlaw. When Joe gets blackmailed into killing his boss or risk having his boss learn about his secret affair with his girlfriend Emma (Miller) he finds himself in the middle of a battle he didn’t want a part of.
After the secret is revelled Joe is left for dead blamed for killing cops, after 3 years in jail he gets sent to Florida to track down Albert White, to stop his business and kill him for the new gangster running things in Boston.
With his being a success Joe ends up clashing with the Klux Klan while trying to continue to watch the money roll in to his bosses and even himself.
Thoughts on Live by Night
Characters – Joe Coughlin is our narrator our gangster, well reluctant gangster, forced into the world after his life as an outlaw gets him mixed up with the wrong people. We learn he is fantastic at handling himself in the meeting striking a deal and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. The other characters seem to just be in chapters of his life, Emma is in Boston being a love interest, while Graciela business partner and lover in Florida. Chief Figgis is the man that will let Joe conduct business and to be honest we don’t get to learn enough about them to care about.
Performances – Ben Affleck is the only lead performer in this movie, he is fine through the film, he doesn’t reach the levels we know he can. When you dive into the supporting cast we get a host of known names and even unknowns who get the same amount of time that are solid without anyone standing out.
Story – The story follows Joe Coughlin as he starts out as a thief and becomes a gangster, this should work and I would have been fine with this, the problems build up as we see how many different situations Joe must solve to get the next chapter of the story through, because we don’t get enough time to see the problems he must overcome and everything just becomes glimpses into the gangster life without doing anything new.
Action/Crime – We have plenty of shooting going on, though the final one does feel like a level of Grand Theft Auto. This does from us into a gangster heavy crime world where the prohibition is ongoing through America.
Settings – The settings place us in the prohibition era America, be it Boston or Florida nothing does seem out of place with these locations.
Final Thoughts – This is a messy gangster film, it has the moments of potential but in the end just jumps too fast to grab us to care about certain moments which do seem to have a bigger impact on the story.
Overall: Disappointing, ending Affleck’s streak behind the camera.