Skip to main content

Featured Post

Amazon Last Minute Christmas Sale Save Big On Tech After Black Friday

It's not too late to pick up tech gifts from Amazon. It's Last Minute Christmas Deals sale has discounts across smart home, laptops, monitors, speakers and other gadgets.

Live By Night Review

"Live By Night", the latest from actor/director Ben Affleck, has a solid Boston pedigree, as it's based on a novel by prolific local writer Dennis Lehane, who also penned the source material for "Mystic River", "Shutter Island", and "Gone Baby Gone".  It also showcases the rise of the city's Italian-Irish mob war that's been examined more fully in such Hub-focused fare as "Black Mass" and "The Departed".  And, of course, Mr. Affleck himself is a product of the "Athens of America".  He's explored these roots to great effect both as a screenwriter ("Good Will Hunting") and a director ("Gone Baby Gone", "The Town", "Argo").  In "Live By Night" Mr. Affleck is front and center as lead actor and director, and with this release he has also added "producer" to his impressive list of credits.

So how does "Live By Night" align with Mr. Affleck's body of work thus far?  Well, it's an interesting step forward, though something of a mixed bag.  Joe Coughlin (Affleck) is a disillusioned WWI veteran-turned-criminal in 1920s Boston, and the first 30 minutes of his tale provide an opportunity to hit a number of the usual Beantown crime-story beats: ethnic gangland rivalries, star-crossed lovers, and an ill-fated bank robbery leading to a hurtling car chase down pedestrian-crowded streets.  He's fallen in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), the salty, sultry sweetheart of a merciless Irish mob-boss, but their plan to run away together goes spectacularly awry, as does Joe's brazen daytime attempt at bank robbery.  Long story short: a few years go by, Joe pursues revenge by aligning himself with mafia don Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), and he finds himself en route to Florida to corner the Gulf Coast rum market for Pescatore.

Once there Joe reunites with his old crony Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina, who shines here as the textbook definition of a "right-hand man"), creates alliances with the local police chief (Chris Cooper, "Adaptation") and a Cuban rumrunner, and promptly falls for his Cuban associate's sister, Graciela (Zoe Saldana, "Guardians of the Galaxy"). There's a ton of story here, and it leads to Joe working his way to the top of the local crime syndicate, framing out a grand oceanfront gambling hall in anticipation of Prohibition's end, running afoul of the KKK in the form of bumptious, bigoted would-be rival RD Pruitt (Matthew Maher), and accidentally igniting the career of tent revival evangelist Loretta Figgis (Elle Fanning, in a role clearly modeled on Christian crusader Aimee Semple McPherson).
As a director Mr. Affleck remains admirably sure-handed, and he handily wrangles the many, many story elements here in a way that keeps things moving but never feels rushed.  However, "Live By Night" may just be too much material for a two-hour movie.  There's not enough time to spend with the venerable Brendan Gleeson, who in the film's early scenes plays Joe's Boston Police Commissioner father with a dignified fatalism that casts a far-reaching shadow over the rest of his son's story.  And an emotional turn by Chris Cooper's grieving Chief Figgis that leads to the film's denouement seems a bit sketched in; it's not a failing of the performance so much as it is a likely-unavoidable shortage of screen time.
But there are elements here that will delight moviegoers:  the getaway of Joe's gang in a speeding Model T Ford after they pull the bank heist is an unexpected thrill ride, dodging around oncoming city traffic then barreling down closely-forested dirt roads with the police in hot pursuit; and the glowing, sun-drenched Southern landscapes, photographed in wide shots that are a sensual shift from the claustrophobic intensity that has characterized Mr. Affleck's earlier efforts, particularly "The Town".
Fans of his work will also have fun playing "spot the actor", as Mr. Affleck has chosen to engage a number of repeat players, including Chris Cooper ("The Town"), Chris Messina ("Argo"), Matthew Maher ("Gone Baby Gone"), and Titus Welliver ("The Town", "Argo", "Gone Baby Gone").  And he certainly knows how to direct his fellow actors; "Live By Night's" performances are uniformly strong, with the aforementioned Mr. Messina standing out for his nimble mix of wry humor and offhand aggression.  Ms. Fanning also deserves accolades for her luminous portrayal of a would-be saint who struggles with questions of faith and modern morality.

Mr. Affleck never fully relaxes into his leading man role here, so his performance serves to move the story forward but the real emotional engagement is left to his co-stars.  This leaves "Live By Night" feeling a bit hollow in the center, but with so many compelling things happening just to the right and left, viewers will probably forgive this.  After all, Mr. Affleck has done excellent work here as director and producer, and really, how many hats can one man be expected to wear...even if they are period-perfect fedoras?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular posts from this blog

Chicken Nachos

Chicken Nachos are the perfect thing for a busy weeknight dinner. They are easy to throw together using leftover chicken and can be customized using whatever Mexican toppings your gang enjoys.

Vorwerk Kobold VR300 Review

At nearly £1000, does the VR300 offer enough to justify the purchase when you can pick up a robot vac for £100s less? Find out in our Vorwerk Kobold VR300 review
Should I Buy The Vorwerk Kobold VR300?
It’s expensive, but the Kobold VR300 provides an impressive vacuuming experience that we think could rival that of a conventional vacuum cleaner, but it’s not as smart as some rivals – yet. The low-profile design, upgraded SLAM technology and D-shape design allow the VR300 to safely navigate around obstacles and reach every last nook and cranny.

Amazon Last Minute Christmas Sale Save Big On Tech After Black Friday

It's not too late to pick up tech gifts from Amazon. It's Last Minute Christmas Deals sale has discounts across smart home, laptops, monitors, speakers and other gadgets.

Asus ZenBook 14 (UX433) Review

Asus has revamped the ZenBook line with a whole new design, including a lighter build, redesigned hinge, and a light-up numpad built right into the touch pad
Should I Buy The Asus ZenBook 14 UX433?
The ZenBook 14 is a very promising shakeup to the Asus laptop line. It’s smaller, lighter, and better looking than any of the previous models, without having to sacrifice either ports or powers. There aren't many laptops around that can offer you a 14in display in a body this compact while still giving you USB-A and HDMI ports, not to mention a Core i7 processor.
Unless you're an Excel addict you can probably safely ignore the glowing numpad - it's a fun gimmick, but most of us will probably forget it's even there, and without tactile feedback it's hardly a proper replacement for the keys. Still, this is a strong enough laptop elsewhere that it doesn't need that gimmick to get by, and there's plenty to recommend it otherwise.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Movie Review

Nth Time's a Charm

If you groaned at the thought of another "Spider-Man" movie, fear not because you weren't alone. How many times can one character be rebooted or reimagined before it becomes insufferable? Apparently we aren't there yet, because "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Everyone's history with the movies about our favorite neighborhood webslinger differs. Sam Raimi's trilogy has its diehard fans (despite only producing one truly great film) and the Andrew Garfield-led "The Amazing Spider-Man" movies were cut short when they didn't meet expectations (the first one is good!). Last year, Jon Watts' "Spider-Man: Homecoming" found Tom Holland in the title role, providing a fun, well-rounded look at the character, which had been missing for a while.

Like Fan Page