By Liz Lopez
Ben Affleck has had an extensive list of acting credits since the 1980s, and the films he has directed and/or written have found success, including “Good Will Hunting” (an Oscar in 1998), “The Town” (an AFI for best movie in 2011), and then the film “Argo” went on to win multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Affleck’s fourth film as a director, “Live By Night”, for which he also wrote the screenplay, is based on the book by Dennis Lehane (“Gone Baby Gone,” “Mystic River”). Additionally, Affleck produced the film and stars as Joe Coughlin.
Joe is the son of Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), a Boston Irish cop, who has returned from fighting in World War I and refuses to live the structured life he did in the military. He returns to Boston from the service with an excellent weaponry skill that helps create a lucrative life of crime during Prohibition. The story not only follows Joe’s crime career, it also chronicles his attempt to have a “normal” romantic life, one that often does not fare well given his lifestyle choice. This saga is very entertaining with the story and performances, great cinematography by Robert Richardson (“The Hateful Eight”, “Inglorious Bastards”), especially the scenes that are set in Tampa, and the music played in the club scenes. The costumes of the period are lovely and the stars in the film look stunningly attractive. Anticipating to have needed a tissue for an emotional scene or two at some point during the film, I found that is not the case in this story despite the attempts that Joe makes to walk away and achieve “happy ever after.”
Joe’s life of “small” crime takes a huge turn after he is placed in a position to “accept” an offer to work for the Irish Mob boss in Boston, Albert White (Robert Glenister). Joe has guts to do this because his affair with White’s girlfriend, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), makes him a dead man walking. Of course, this arrangement lasts so long before being busted, in many ways I may add, and is hospitalized before doing time. Three years in fact, had it not been for Daddy’s influence – the little that he has left.
After prison, times are different and his old boss’s rival, the Italian crime-boss rival, Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), does not ask, he orders him to Tampa for a takeover dealing in Cuban rum. Joe quickly takes in the scenery of beautiful weather and women when his loyal buddy, Dion (Chris Messina), shows him around town. He quickly finds the established middleman, Gary L. Smith (Anthony Michael Hall), and runs him out of town. The chief of police, Irving Figgis (Chris Cooper), appears to be half expecting the visit from Joe, and although they arrive at a certain “agreement” about doing business, the large headache for both parties comes from members of the Ku Klux Klan with different intentions, especially RD Pruitt (Matthew Maher) who has his connection with the chief too.
While not actively “looking for love” as he does business, Joe meets the owners of the Cuban club, Graciela (Zoë Saldana) and Esteban Suarez (music star Miguel), siblings who also have the hook up for the rum. Even though they both engage in work on the wrong side of the law, it is not long before the couple finds bliss together, with long-term goals for “getting out.”
Unfortunately, the chief’s daughter, Loretta (Elle Fanning), does not succeed in efforts to become an actress in California. The proof of the “activities” she engages in is difficult for the chief. He accepts her back home, but expects her to “repent”. Once she becomes a born-again crusader against sin, including gambling to be done in a new casino being built, she reaches large audiences with her story, but too much so that the Italian crime-boss steps in when the well-being of his racket is threatened.
When it looks like Joe can be king of the hill and have it ALL, he chooses bliss, but the past eventually surfaces in stories like this. Despite this shade of predictability in the story, don’t miss watching this film produced by Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson and Jennifer Todd and Executive produced by Lehane, Chris Brigham, and Chay Carter.
“Live By Night” has an ‘R’ MPAA Rating and a running time of 129 minutes. It has had limited release last month and opens nationwide on January 13th.
Source: Warner Bros.