From stickup man to Mob big shot
Based on a novel by Shutter Island author Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck’s sprawling gangster epic Live by Night charts the rise of a Prohibition hoodlum from disenchanted Great War veteran to Boston stickup man, and thence to Florida rum runner and Mob big shot.
Along the way, Affleck’s co-stars deliver some crackerjack performances, including Sienna Miller as a dangerously slinky gangster’s moll, Elle Fanning as a would-be starlet turned revivalist preacher and Mathew Maher as a lethally unhinged, creepily lisping Ku Klux Klansman. The climactic shoot-out packs quite a punch, too.
Yet despite all this the overall movie is surprisingly dull. And Affleck the actor, rather than Affleck the director, writer and producer, must shoulder the blame: he’s just too handsomely bland for the role. He doesn’t really convey the bitterness of the ex-soldier who turns to crime after his experiences in the trenches; and he doesn’t convince us that his character possesses the ruthlessness to get to the top of the underworld.
Instead, Affleck puts his efforts into impressing us with Joe’s progressive credentials as he faces down bigoted WASPs and champions diversity, not least by romancing Zoë Saldana’s sultry Cuban beauty. A darker figure might have given the movie a much-needed edge. Instead, Joe is too decent, and too PC, to be a credible Prohibition-era crook.
Certificate 15. Runtime 123 mins. Director Ben Affleck
Live by Night is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
Blu-ray special features
• Angels with Dirty Faces: The Women of Live By Night
• The Men of Live By Night
• Live By Night’s Prolific Author
• In Close Up: Creating a Classic Car Chase
• Deleted Scenes
• Deleted Scenes Commentary
• Director’s Commentary