Sunday, 21 May 2017

Live By Night

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Released to much critical derision the fourth film directed by Ben Affleck, Live By Night is adapted for the screen by the leading actor from a novel by Dennis Lehane, tells a fictional story of booze running during prohibition era America which starts in Boston (Affleck's home town) and ends in Tampa, Florida following Joe Coughlin who works for an Irish firm but after falling for the boss' girl he ends up in prison before turning to the Italian mafia which leads him to the South.

Following the lambasting aimed at Ben Affleck for taking on the role of Batman in the much reviled Dawn of Justice directed by Zach Snyder, there has been a slow step of backlash at Affleck who had become a darling after winning an Oscar for Argo.

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Affleck does not do many favours with this adaptation, which could have done with perhaps a co-writer to help shape the script better and not have it become the Affleck show has he ticks off ladies man, charmer, good in a fight, good with a gun; he ends up as the gentleman who has to raise his son and will not kill someone who needs to be killed for his job because he all of a sudden grows a moral fibre.  Either Affleck had to give his character a little bit of nastiness or conflict instead of being able to leave the gang at film's end or he should have asked another actor to play the leading role.

It is a shame because the film is a victory as a production itself with gorgeous photography by Robert Richardson, vintage costumes and note perfect set design. This is married with some fine supporting work by Chris Messina as Dago and Elle Fanning who instills some real layers in her born again Christian envangelist Loretta Figgis becoming the performer her innocent self wanted to be.

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Based on Dennis Lehane's novel
Running at close to two hours there is a sharper more efficient film somewhere here if Affleck had not been given the world to act, write, produce and direct, much like Orson Welles, Affleck has been given the world's biggest train set to play with but has failed to build up a significant head of steam on this occasion.

You cannot fault his ambition when movie making sometimes falls prey to remakes, rehashes and retreads in this age of instant gratification. Affleck aimed to make a film about failed ambition and belonging, following the box office failure of the film he finds himself ironically producing his own failure, which is a shame.

Live By Night is released on DVD and Blu-Ray from Warner Bros. on Monday 22nd May

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