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Live By Night




Live By Night (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

01/19/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Live By Night (R)

The son of a police officer gets tangled up in mob warfare in Live By Night, a pile of historic costumes and period-appropriate guns held together by the baling wire of Ben Affleck’s narration.
Joe Coughlin (Affleck) returned from World War I full of bitterness. Though he’s the son of a respected police higher-up, Thomas Coughlin (Brendan Gleeson), Joe is a stick-up artist, robbing banks, other criminals’ poker games and the like. He is also tempting fate by dating Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), the girlfriend of Albert White (Robert Glenister), head of the Irish mob in Boston. Albert is in a perpetual turf war with Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), head of the Italian mob. Despite his desire to remain unaffiliated, Joe finds himself dragged into their fight.
Eventually, Joe lands in Florida working for Maso. He ships bootleg rum north with the help of Esteban Suarez (Miguel) and his sister Graciela (Zoe Saldana). The local law enforcement gives Joe a pass to operate, within some limits, in Florida and he sees the possibility for a peaceful life. But, as his father once told him, what you put out in the world comes back to you, and thus does Joe’s violent profession constantly put his safety and that of the people he loves at risk. 
Live By Night feels like so much fancy nonsense. Its setting and the sleep-inducing way it approaches this slice of history remind me why, even though the subject sounded interesting, I gave up on Boardwalk Empire after about an episode and a half. The gangs of Prohibition-era Boston? Interesting. The disillusionment of soldiers returning from World War I? Interesting. The mix of ethnicities and their relationships to each other in Florida? The place of the KKK and of traveling preachers in American culture in the 1920s? Criminality and the role of law enforcement during Prohibition? All interesting. And yet Live By Night? Pretty but boring. 
Things I thought while watching this movie: “Wait, when are we?” “If we’re in Florida now, what was the point of all that Boston stuff?” “If that character has come and gone, what was the point of ever spending time with them?” “Oh, wait, that wasn’t the movie’s end?” These are not the kinds of questions you ask when you’re being electrified by a movie. These are the questions you ask when you’re waiting for a movie to run out the clock. At least the performances are good, I thought. But then, the more I considered it (and this movie leaves lots of room for you to consider things, from plot silliness to whether you left the oven on), “ponderous” and “good” aren’t the same thing, and “ponderous” is what most of the actors are doing here. 
Live By Night is the sort of movie that aspires to award season with its period setting, saga-like sweep and serious drama. But its parts never quite add up to anything that feels award-worthy. C
Rated R for strong violence, language throughout and some sexuality/nudity. Written and directed by Ben Affleck (and based on a Dennis Lehane novel), Live By Night is two hours and eight minutes long and distributed by Warner Bros. 
 





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