It seems that the Affleck brothers are very busy at the moment. While Casey stars in the acclaimed Manchester by the Sea (for which he also won a Golden Globe in the category Best Actor), big brother Ben heads to the big screen with his own Live By Night in which he stars but which he also directed. The double role director-actor did suit him a few years ago when he won the Oscar for Best Picture with Argo. Honestly we think Live By Night won’t live up to those same standards. Probably because of the fierce competition from La La Land and not because Live By Night isn’t good. Cause it’s still good.
This time Affleck choose again for a gangster novel from writer Dennis Lehane. In both the novel and the film, you’ll be beamed back into time to Boston during the prohibition. Joe Coughlin (performed by Affleck himself), a First-World Wat veteran and gangster, lives his dream life. He has loads of money and loads of woman. He has it all. Until he lays his eye on Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), the mistress of Albert White who is one of the notorious Irish mobsters during that time. White does what he’s known for. Getting people out of his way. Either dead or alive. He sends Coughlin to jail. When Coughlin gets out, he decides to run off to Tampa with his best friend Dion Bartolo where they join the Italian mob. The men also start their own illegal trade in rum. A new city, a new life and a new love. Coughlin has it all, once again. Until his past gets up to him once more…
A story about gangsters, booze, women, sex and crimes? Sounds like the perfect story for a pure gangster drama movie. One like Affleck wanted to make. All he needed to do was grabbing the story with both hands. When it comes to the bigger picture, he really succeeded in that. From the first moments, he shows you what you’re going to get during your cinema visit. One explosion after another, some crimes to solve and some women to make love to. According Sienna Miller, one of her sex scenes with leading man Affleck, lasted for over seven (!) hours. Are we jealous at her? Well maybe a little bit. But Miller and Affleck aren’t the only ones who shine in Live By Night. They are accompanied by Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy), who plays the second great love in Coughlin’s life, and Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart), who plays a double role in the movie. And if there’s one person who really deserves a mention in this review, it’s costume designer Jacqueline West. Five minutes into the movie and we already lost count on how many suits Affleck wore.
The downside of Live By Night is that Affleck and his cast and crew wanted to do too much. At some point the story is taken over by all the explosions, violence and crimes and after a while that’s getting a little bit boring. That’s why we had the feeling the movie lasted a lot more than the two hours screen time. So Affleck, maybe next time you should make the story count instead of the special effects.
But Life By Night is still an enjoyable movie to watch. Affleck shows that he still shines as an actor and that his directing skills aren’t bad either. We might prefer his brother’s new movie and Argo was probably better than Live By Night. However, the movie is still worth watching.