Whenever a film is written, stars, directed by the same person I feel a slight twinge of concern and when a films release is delayed by a year and the following quote is used by said multi-tasker: “Editing is a strange process. It’s a lot of ups and downs, but overall, the movie has amazing performances. I just got so lucky with the cast. They’re incredible … The hardest part about the process now is trying to find stuff to cut out because I don’t want the movie to be too long.”I immediately begin to wonder if this is a film or a giant tax write off.
But, as always I checked my concerns at the door and… was mildly surprised.
Setting a gangster film in the roaring twenties is a good idea, gangsters, dames, sharp suits and Tommy guns are always a great time. And the cast is solid as well, Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson and Zoe Saldanna among others.
It looks gorgeous as well, whoever was doing the cinematography deserves a pat on the back and a raise because there are so many shots that deserve to be iconic and a few more that would make sublime posters as well.
Unfortunately, in everything else it falls apart completely.
The film feels like the greatest video game movie ever made- I mean its plot- soldier comes back from the war determined to live his own live his way as a gangster winds up joining a ‘family’ and working his way through the ranks by grabbing territory and facing off against rival gangs plays like every Mafia game ever made.
Setting the film over… I’m going to say a decade- it never gives us a timeline and nobody ever seems to age, means it feels very episodic, narration sets the scene, Affleck is presented with a problem which he either talks or shoots his way out of, then narration and we rinse and repeat.
As well as that, It’s got all the negatives of a true life story with non of the positives- such as a pre-existing awareness of the characters or the ability to do further research after we’ve seen the film.
And the films episodic nature means we never really get involved in any particular issue that Afflecks character is faced with. It never feels like a film is what i’m trying to say.
And even leaving that aside, none of the characters make much of an impact with me. All of the characters are cardboard cutouts and Afflecks main character never seems worried, upset, angry, in danger, happy, sad or any other human emotion. He’s always calm and in control and as a result isn’t particularly interesting or engaging.
And even the violence is poorly done. I don’t mind several of the hits being done matter of fact, that’s fine. But when the main character is supposedly fighting for his life, whether in a fist or gunfight, then shouldn’t I feel excited or tense or engaged? And I simply didn’t.
The fact that Affleck sounds like he was recording his narration whilst coming around whilst coming out from under anesthetic and he wasn’t particularly interested in doing it in the first place doesn’t help.
Live By Night is glorious to look at and with a solid cast but feels episodic and lacks tension, thrills or even interesting characters. And it failed completely to silence the little voice in my head that spent the entire film whispering “Why are we watching this when we could be at home watching Broadwalk Empire?”
My Score- If Nothing Else