Live By Night (2017) Review

live-by-night

In the 1920’s a young man living a life of violence and robberies finds himself double-crossed by someone he trusted. Years later after being released from prison, he seeks to gain a rise to power by getting involved in the mob at the time of Prohibition, bootlegging, and the rise of the KKK.

The latest film directed by (and also starring) Ben Affleck is an entertaining gangster film and provides some engaging gun fights and a well-crafted car chase,  but unfortunately the script is a bloated mess. It’s really the the script is bad, but there is just way too much going on with so many plot points, the pace feels uneven, and there are supporting characters that seem to be just thrown in. Unlike past Affleck films where we are given some good drama to work with and a strong story, this one almost feels like a half-assed effort. I’m all for a popcorn gangster flick (hell I enjoyed Gangster Squad), but this script seemed like it was unsure whether it was trying to be serious or not. Along with this, we are given characters that are only present for a while, but then are swept under the rug. The direction is fine, and Affleck does have a good vision of what he wanted the film to be, it just gets muddled in with the bloated script with no clear idea of where it’s going.

Affleck himself is decent as the lead, but it’s far from one of his strongest performances. Surprisingly enough, it’s the supporting actresses that give the best performances, even when they’re the ones who get the shaft as far as characters. Zoe Saldana does well with what she can as the love interest to Affleck’s character, even though she really doesn’t get anything to do at all. Sienna Miller plays her role as the femme fatale character early in the  film to the best of her advantage, but her presence is cut short, even though her character is more or less the one to set up the plot of the story. Finally, the MVP of the film is Elle Fanning in her small role as the troubled daughter of the crooked town officer. She absolutely shines in two of her biggest scenes and is the only character is actually given enough depth and emotions to work with, which makes it a shame that she’s hardly in the movie.

It’s not the best gangster movie you’ll see, and unfortunately it’s a weak effort script-wise by Affleck, but it at least has some nice direction and solid performances from its cast to make it a complete dud.

2.5/5

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