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Live By Night

Opening Date
26 Jan 2017
M18 Sexual Scenes and Violence
129 mins
English with Chinese subtitles
Crime, Drama
Ben Affleck
Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Ben Affleck
What you put out into this world will always come back to you, but it never comes back how you predict. Taking fatherly advice is not in Joe Coughlin’s nature. Instead, the WWI vet is a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent.  Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code.  Leaving the cold Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa. And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe will learn that it comes at a price.
By Freddy  27 Jan 2017
‘Live by Night’ ultimately feels unsatisfying despite having much potential from the source material.
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‘Live by Night’ is a largely faithful adaptation of the eponymous source material by Dennis Lehane. Ben Affleck adapted the book into the screenplay, besides juggling the roles of executive producer, director, and actor. Ben Affleck has previously adapted another book by Lehane, ‘Gone Baby Gone’, for his directorial debut.

I would not be able to say that this is a good film. That is worsened by my expectations, too. We know that Affleck is capable of producing a much better film. Those expecting a film on par with his previous directing or screenwriting achievements such as ‘Argo’, ‘The Town’, and ‘Good Will Hunting’ will be disappointed.

The film is overly long at 129 minutes and is awkwardly paced. Its revenge and mafia theme should make a thrilling plot with increasing tension, but it ends up being a very slow burn with one final shootout at the end. Some scenes make the audience laugh although they seem very out of place. I doubt those scenes are intentionally humorous.

One of the main weaknesses of the film is Ben Affleck’s writing and performance as the main protagonist, Joe Coughlin. Joe seems to have a perpetually distracted and uncertain look on his face. He seems to be purely motivated by revenge although his expressions and emotions do not sufficiently telegraph that. Affleck’s portrayal of a war-torn man who has seen too many deaths in World War I pales in comparison to Michael Fassbender’s role in ‘Light Between Oceans’. I was never able to buy that he was a good man at the beginning who turned into a bad person due to his quest for revenge. Even with the lengthy duration, Joe’s personality hardly seemed transformed throughout.

The other characters are equally weak throughout, especially of the love interests Emma Gould (Sienna Miller) and Graciela Corrales (Zoe Saldana) who are thinly written. The talented cast which also includes Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, and Brendan Gleeson did their best but ultimately do not have much to work with. The most memorable character is Loretta, an aspiring actress turned drug addict turned preacher, played wonderfully by Fanning.

Despite the weaknesses in the screenplay department, the film is aesthetically pleasing. It has beautiful costumes and sets which really brought out the Prohibition era atmosphere. Some shots of the locations, such as the rivers, are stunning. The cinematography is not impressive but is mostly decent.

‘Live by Night’ ultimately feels unsatisfying despite having much potential from the source material. It managed to have a neat, clear conclusion at the end, an improvement from the earlier parts of the film. Despite the best effort from its talented cast, the film struggles to rise above its weak screenplay.
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