Live By Night Reviewed By Jon E Clist

The Premise
Boston, 1926. The '20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. But life on the dark side carries a heavy price.

The Review
Love me a good gangster film. There have been plenty of great films over the years to glorify the world of the gangsters of the twenties and thirties. Who wouldn’t want to be an inner-city outlaw in the pursuit of living large and at large?

Ben Affleck's second time directing an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane novel. His first being Gone Baby Gone. Lehane was initially fearful of Ben Affleck's ability to play the lead role of Joe Coughlin, considering an actor of Affleck's presence would struggle to access the underlying perfidy and prudency that both plagued and spurned Coughlin. To his credit, Affleck was humble enough to screen test, and (apparently) more than allayed any fears. What a strange and yet above and beyond sort of thing to do, to screen test for a film you are directing.

I think dealing with the world of gangsters is a bit of a dance with balance. Sure, you want to create an action packed adventure and yet you also don’t completely want to glorify this world. For example, as with most gangster films, the opulence must have a price. I think that Lehane always does a great job of bringing this tension into balance within his stories.

The cast is brilliant in pulling together this tale in such a way that you float between who is bad and who is worse. After all, for the most part they are all criminals and most of the police turn a blind eye to what is going on. The tension builds as the need for revenge enters the plot and the saying “revenge is a dish best served cold” is so applicable. While the story is rather predictable it doesn’t really matter all that much as there is still plenty of action and interesting characters to keep the viewer amused and interested.

Visually it is a gritty and starts off dark and grey while set in Boston and yet the colours begin to explode once the action moves south to Florida and the Cuban element begins to infuse with the Irish gangster lifestyle. There are elements we I think this film that will resonate with lovers of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Cinematographer Robert Richardson wanted to shoot the film with the Ultra Panavision 70 anamorphic lenses he had recently used on The Hateful Eight film, but Panavision had already rented them for use on Rogue One. Yet the film still has that gritty old feel that suits the time period that it displays.

The Verdict
As far as gangster films go, this is a good reflection of the genre. Unlike Affleck’s previous directing outings, I don’t see this film having a massive amount of live from the critics and yet the public will find plenty to enjoy and enthrall.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 26th January 2017
Rating: R16 – Contains Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Duration: 129 minutes 
Genre:  Drama, Crime
Starring: Zoe Saldana, Ben Affleck, Chris Sullivan
Director: Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town)

The Extras
Leonardo DiCaprio was considered for the lead role, but decided to produce this film instead.

Ben Affleck delayed his own directorial production of this project to take the lead role in David Fincher's adaption of Gone Girl (2014). According to Affleck, he always wanted to get a chance to work with David Fincher on a film.

Ben Affleck's fourth time directing a movie.

Jennifer Lawrence and Lindsay Lohan were considered for the lead roles.

Titus Welliver has appeared in all 4 of the movies Ben Affleck has directed.