To say that Ben Affleck’s “Live By Night” is a bad film would be harsh and probably unfair. In fact, for a film that is so technically good, it’s hard to comprehend why it’s not a more engrossing watch. It’s not that “Live By Night” is a bad movie, it’s just that it’s not great. It has all the components to make a good film – an intriguing story, good acting, glitzy cinematography – however “Live By Night” simply lacks one intangible but important element: energy.
Affleck stars in the film which he also wrote, based on Dennis Lehane’s book. He plays Joe Coughlin, an outlaw and petty thief who gets mixed up with Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister) when he’s caught having an affair with White’s girlfriend (Sienna Miller).
Joe’s beaten up and sent to prison for three years, so when he’s released, he’s out for revenge. He goes to work for White’s rival, Italian mobster Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), who sends Joe down to Tampa to run his bootlegging business and muscle in on White’s turf. In Florida, he falls in love with Graciela Suarez (Zoe Saldana), cosies up with the local lawman (Chris Cooper) and sets up a successful business for himself and his boss.
Set in the roaring 20s, “Live By Night” gives us all the glamour of the era and violence of the genre. The cast give good performances in (mostly) dynamic roles and the camerawork is easy on the eye. All the pieces are there, however the story, while promising on paper, simply falls flat on the screen. It lacks the energy and excitement one would expect from a movie like this. “Live By Night” is decent watch, but you won’t find yourself on the edge of your seat.