You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Affleck wears too many hats in ‘Live By Night’


With “Live By Night” there’s the sinking feeling that Ben Affleck should perhaps reconsider his tendency to star in the films he directs. He’s proven to be a gifted filmmaker, but the weaknesses in his oeuvre are more often than not his leading performances, which are usually the least interesting parts of his films. He seems to excel when working with a talented lead actor (his brother Casey, in “Gone Baby Gone,” for example) or when a director pushes him to give a complex performance (David Fincher in “Gone Girl”).

In “Live By Night,” writer, director and star Affleck is wearing too many hats — he literally wears a lot of hats in this Prohibition-era gangster flick — and there’s the sense that maybe he was spread too thin, and therefore the story is spread too thin. As a director, he’s too enamored of his star to push the character of Joseph Coughlin, the gangster son of a Boston police captain (Brendan Gleeson), to the uncomfortable places that are demanded by this tale steeped in contradictory moral and ethical extremes.

Young bank robber Joe finds himself mixed up with the Irish and Italian mobs of Boston before he ultimately takes over the rum-running trade in Tampa on behalf of the Italian mob boss. Joe’s hell-bent on enacting revenge on Irish boss Albert White (Robert Glenister), a former romantic rival, whom he blames for the death of their shared lady love, Irish immigrant flapper Emma (Sienna Miller).

That vengeful fire is what drives him to seek more and more power in Tampa, partnering with a pair of Cuban siblings, one of whom he falls in love with (Zoe Saldana), driving out the Klan, and attempting to secure a hold on the gambling industry while wrestling with a cultural tide of religious conservatism. As a screenwriter, Affleck takes his source material from Dennis Lehane’s 2012 crime novel, and in the adaptation, it seems he’s bitten off more than he can chew. Instead of narrowing the focus, Affleck’s tries to stuff more and more in — more plot twists, more characters, more shootouts.

There are fascinating elements of the story, including the racial tension and a tangle with a hypocritical KKK, but the film doesn’t sink deeply into one issue, merely skipping along the surface. And what a surface — the production and costume design and cinematography by Robert Richardson are impeccable; sumptuous and simply gorgeous to look at. But the hurried pace, multitude of characters and muddled plot developments makes sure that the film is all surface, nothing else.

One of the more compelling characters is Tampa police chief Irving Figgis (Chris Cooper), a straight-arrow sheriff who looks the other way at bootlegging if the crooks follow his rules. His life intertwines tragically with Joe’s, the choices each man makes determining the other’s fate. Cooper is heart-wrenching in his performance, one of the only affecting aspects of “Live By Night.” One wishes that their intimate dilemmas had been the real meat of the story, and not a tangential afterthought.

The filmmaking craft on display is laudable, but the story is rote and unfocused. The material would have been better served if expanded for more detail, or contracted to a smaller scale. The puzzle pieces are there, but without a strong leading performance or cohesive script, it just doesn’t hold together.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

BET Awards 2017: What time, what channel, who is nominated, performing
BET Awards 2017: What time, what channel, who is nominated, performing

Some of the biggest artists in rap, hip hop, pop, R&B, movies and TV will be at the BET Awards on Sunday. Remy Ma, DJ Khaled, New Edition and more  are scheduled to be at the show at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.  Here’s what you need to know before the show: What time: 8 p.m. ET What channel: BET, with live streams on BET.com...
13 things to keep in mind when thinking about the Han Solo movie controversy
13 things to keep in mind when thinking about the Han Solo movie controversy

The Disney-firing-the-directors-of-the-Han-Solo-movie story just keeps chugging along. In sum: Several outlets reported on Tuesday that Disney had fired (yes, fired) directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (“The Lego Movie”) off of the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars spin-off movie.  On Thursday, the Hollywood Reporter reported...
‘You’re my butter half’ mural in East Austin vandalized
‘You’re my butter half’ mural in East Austin vandalized

The “You’re my butter half” mural in East Austin is the latest iconic local mural to be hit by vandals. <div></div><br><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/statesman">@statesman</a> The "...
WATCH: Man drags 6-foot shark back into water on Padre Island
WATCH: Man drags 6-foot shark back into water on Padre Island

Three men who caught a massive bull shark were caught on video dragging it back to its home in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Karen Wall, a Corpus Christi woman who posted a Facebook video of the men dragging the shark back into the water, said the men were fishing off Bob Hall Pier on North Padre Island...
San Antonio radio station hosts ‘men-only’ movie screening in response to ‘Wonder Woman’ screenings
San Antonio radio station hosts ‘men-only’ movie screening in response to ‘Wonder Woman’ screenings

After Alamo Drafthouse announced “women-only” screenings of the recently released “Wonder Woman” movie, the theater chain gained national attention. Some praised the theater for its decision to send a message of female empowerment, while others — including a New York attorney who filed a complaint with the...
More Stories