What it's about:
It’s the roaring 20s, and Prohibition hasn’t stopped the flow of booze in an underground network of gangster-run speakeasies. The opportunity for power and money is there for any man with enough ambition and nerve. Joe Coughlin, the son of the Boston Police Superintendent, long ago turned his back on his strict upbringing in exchange for the spoils of being an outlaw. But, even among criminals there are rules, and Joe breaks a big one – crossing a powerful mob boss by stealing both the gangster’s money and moll. The fiery affair ends in tragedy, setting Joe on a path of revenge, ambition, romance, and betrayal that propels him out of Boston and up the ladder of Tampa’s steamy rum-running underworld.
What we thought:
I need to start off by saying that when I was first asked to review Live By Night, I was not keen. Then when I found out I would not only be watching the film in London but also interviewing the cast my attitude instantly changed.
So, as I sit reflecting on my adventure to an international screening as well as interviewing Ben Affleck (Joe Coughlin), Sienna Miller (Emma Gould) and Chris Messina (Dion Bartolo), I’ll try to keep my review neutral.
Live By Night, based on the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, is absolutely perfect – if it’s an old school, classic gangster film you’re looking for.
Set in the prohibition era, everything from the storyline, wardrobe and props to the set itself will instantly transport you to the 1920s which, if you’re into that kind of thing, will already convince you that Affleck has done a really good job.
Attach a well chosen cast to that and, you’ve got yourself a set up to bring in the money at the box office.
As the star of the film, Affleck’s portrayal of Joe could have done with a little more life and emotion, however his supporting cast did a great job in minimising this from standing out.
Miller perfectly portrayed Emma, even as a gangsters moll, she brought raw emotion to the character that had me on her side instantly.
Another perfect character fit is Zoe Saldana’s Cuban Graciela. Playing the lady who mends Joe’s broken heart, Saldana just melts into her role as if she really lived the story and was merely playing an old memory back in her head.
One can’t forget that all gangster films need a bad guy and the choice of Robert Glenister as major rival Albert White made the bad guy as evil as they come.
Sadly the film tends to drag on about things that could’ve easily been cut. I got the feeling that Affleck tried to tell a story that included everything from capitalism, racism, power and the American dream to the hypocrisy of the good and moral which is just way too much to try an fit into two hours.
Live By Night may have its downs but the ups definitely make this film worth the watch!