Live By Night With Ben Affleck (2017) Review

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Keeva Stratton

Film Expert

Returned from the great war, a disillusioned young man of Irish descent, who has had his fill of taking orders, is caught up in the middle of a gangster war in 1920s America. Ben Affleck’s ode to classic mobster films falls short of the mark, but isn’t without a few highlights.

live-by-nightimage via pinterest

Joe (Ben Affleck) has decided that there’s fun and money to be made in breaking a few laws, but when he does a job on a high stakes card game controlled by the local Boston mob boss, he quickly finds himself recruited into the local Irish gang.

His second mistake is falling for the mobster’s girlfriend, Emma (Sienna Miller), and his affections for her quickly guarantee his painful downfall. In seeking his vengeance, Joe switches his allegiances to the Italian mafia, and finds himself in charge of the lucrative bootlegging operation in Tampa.

His new locale comes complete with a hot new romance with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), but it would seem his arrival doesn’t just upset the rival mobsters, as his upstart profiteering and miscegenation has become a core focus of the Klan. War ensues, and Joe must use all his street skills to stay alive and survive.

This unlikely gangster, who has retained an unlikely sense of morals, must contend with a hotbed of racism, violence and corruption that grows ever more threatening, even as the era of prohibition—which fuels demand for his bootlegged rum—seems destined to end.

Live by Night has its moments, but generally lacks the thematic grit and narrative depth of its meatier forebears. Affleck is attempting to depict the horror of corruption and racism, without revealing its ugly nature fully. He creates a series of slick moments, which are interspersed with some clever dialogue, but overall the sense is that the film is a little patchy and uneven. Ultimately you leave feeling the film would have been greatly improved with tighter editing.

Following Affleck’s brilliance with the critically acclaimed Argo, Live by Night doesn’t quite meet its high expectations. It’s obvious potential and wonderful cast leave the viewer wondering what could have been, had Affleck brought more of Scorsese’s grit or Coppola’s tension to this piece.

Video via Warner Bros

Director: Ben Affleck

Stars: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning

Runtime: 2 hours 9 mins

Release Date: Jan 26

Rating: MA 15+

Reviewer Rating: 3/5

 

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