LIVE BY NIGHT
A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Klu Klux Klan.
Review by Louise Keller:
Set during the Prohibition era, Ben Affleck's slick, beautifully directed gangster story offers a real sense of time and place, but stops short of delivering the complete package. There are many wonderful elements mind you, including a top-drawer cast, headed by Affleck himself, a complex personal story and flawless production design. Affleck has adapted Dennis Lehane's novel with a screenplay brimming with detail. This is a tale that is neither simple nor simplistic.
It's about power, morality, revenge and money; Affleck greatest challenge lies in how his central character of Joe Coughlin is portrayed. Coughlin might insist he is not a gangster by name; his actions speak otherwise. On one hand, Coughlin does dastardly things; on the other, he wants to keep his hands clean. That is the rub. There is a moral compass and we believe Coughlin has a conscience.
Affleck establishes the characters well with all the intricacies of the relationships and motivations. Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana are both fabulous as the women in Coughlin's life. Miller's Irish moll comes with considerable baggage, namely her ruthless gangster boyfriend Albert White (played with glee by Robert Glenister). Enter White's rival Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), for whom Coughlin goes to work and the scene is set for a gunshot filled climactic finale in which Coughlin gets to show whether or not he is 'cruel' enough to secure his position.
Brendan Gleeson and Chris Cooper are solid as Coughlin's policeman father and a pious Christian respectively. Watch for Elle Fanning as Cooper's aspiring actress daughter, who makes some questionable decisions.
Some of the dialogue is hard to decipher and the film, with its 129 minute running time plays a little long and tedious at times. Lehane's novel Gone Girl provided the material for Affleck's stunning directorial debut nine years ago, and while this one may not be as complete, it nonetheless has merit and offers a moody and intense cinematic experience.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
In a brief intro before the preview screening, Ben Affleck tells the audience he made Live By Night because he wanted to make a film in his favourite genre - the 20s gangster movie. This proves to be something of a burden for the film cinematically, because it appears to have limited his scope for something of value to say. The film looks the goods, although at times it's lit too brightly to be really true to the spirit of that genre, but there is a muddle in the editing, which comes from a muddle in the writing. I haven't read Dennis Lehane's book, but the adaptation seems a bit flat.
The genre elements are in place, though, with inter-ethnic gangster clashes and plenty of violent gunfights, the lovely molls, the greed of gang bosses and the arrival of drugs on the crime scene, which bridges the business models from booze as prohibition ends.
But there is a lack of clarity about Ben Affleck's character, Joe Coughlin, son of policeman Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), a cold blooded killer who morphs into a schmaltzy family man.
Performances, though, are stellar, with Mathew Maher outstanding as nasty RD Pruitt, Robert Glenister as another bad egg, Albert White; Elle Fanning mesmerising as Loretta Figgis, daughter of the Chief (Chris Cooper, also great), whose innocent looks hides a complex and driven character; Sienna Miller as the elusive, unpredictable Emma and Zoe Saldana as Graciela, who falls in love with Joe. The Italian gangster boss Maso Pescatore is played with riveting complexity by Remo Girone, adding much zest to the otherwise recognisable mob elements - like his stupid and cruel son Digger, played by Max Casella. Affleck himself is less effective, perhaps because his character is so emotionally detached.
It's certainly a well made film, and entertaining enough; it just doesn't rise to the highs we might expect of it.
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LIVE BY NIGHT (MA15+)
CAST: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Remo Girone, Robert Glenister, Matthew Maher, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Miguel J. Pimentel, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Titus Welliver
PRODUCER: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Todd, Jennifer Davisson, Leonardo di Caprio
DIRECTOR: Ben Affleck
SCRIPT: Ben Affleck (novel by Dennis Lehane)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson
EDITOR: William Goldenberg
MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jess Gonchor
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 26, 2017