As Batman in ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and Christian Wolff in ‘The Accountant’, Ben Affleck has had a pretty good 2016; although, he hasn’t directed a film since ‘Argo’, which was a very funny and thrilling piece of work that earned 3 Oscars, including Best Picture (but no director nod for Affleck). Here, he has to balance both being behind and in front of the camera; the result is a rushed, squeezed-in gangster flick about adultery, the prohibition-era, and a bit of soul-searching. As a director, Affleck has it covered. The action scenes in this movie are well-handled as well as its costume design and beautiful cinematography. But that’s all ‘Live By Night’ has going for it.
The story itself is a hodgepodge of beautiful women, drinking, gambling, offers the main character can’t refuse; whatever makes a gangster flick. The acting can be decent, but Affleck gives a very disappointing performance trying to figure out which accent to use. The character of Joe Coughlin is supposed to be an Irishman (You can tell by the narration and the setting alone), but when he’s onscreen, he goes from Boston to American in a matter of many scenes. Sienna Miller and Brendan Gleeson are really going past his level in terms of an Irish brogue as Emma Gould, Joe’s lover, and his father Thomas, respectively.
Not all of the characters are Irish. In fact, the movie follows Joe as he goes from state to state (mostly Tampa) in order to get rum into the nightclubs and start an empire. Along the way, he teams up with Dion Bartolo as they stage robberies and make getaways from the law, with shooting to make the chases thrilling. He also meets future flame Graciella Corrales (Zoe Saldana), the chief of police, Irving Figgis (Chris Cooper, seeming as if he’s too old for this sh*t), and his daughter Loretta (Elle Fanning), who is only in the movie for a couple of scenes, but shines in her moments.
‘Live By Night’ does have potential to be a great movie. However, in order for a gangster movie to be great, it doesn’t need to just focus on action and thrills, but it needs tension during the dramatic dialogue. If you need films that add tension to their dialogue, might I suggest ‘Inglourious Basterds’ or ‘Black Mass’ instead of this? Better luck next time, Affleck!