Live by Night (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 129 minutes.
Not for children.
I’m a sucker for good
period pieces and with some exceptions this is a good one. Produced and
directed by Ben Affleck, he also wrote the screenplay which is based on
the award-winning bestseller by Dennis Lehane. This is the same
collaboration that produced Gone Baby Gone, for which Affleck won
Affleck has a fine
cast which includes Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleason, Sienna Miller, Zoe
Saldana, and Chris Cooper. Miller gives such a good performance I didn’t
recognize her as one of the most beautiful women in the world. But,
except for Affleck, they’re all terrific.
Set in the period
between 1927-33, locations are Boston and Tampa, Florida, which are
lovingly re-created, especially the cars. There is even a car chase in
the old 1927 automobiles.
Affleck plays a
strange type of bad guy, though. He’s supposed to be a sociopathic
killer, but that never really comes across. He should have watched how
Warren Beatty recreated a real sociopath, the charming Bugsy Siegel, in
Bugsy (1991). There are points in that relatively weak film when
the real evil resident in Bugsy, his irrationality and narcissism, come
out and Beatty nails it. Affleck apparently just doesn’t have the range
to duplicate that. He’s just the same old Ben we’ve seen in every movie
in which he’s acted, so it leaves his character as little more than
Pablum. Ben should stick to directing and leave the acting to others.
Another weakness of
the movie is a shootout near the end that so lacks credibility it
reminds one of the old John Wayne westerns that the Duke shot under Lone
Star and Republic in the thirties at the same time that Warner Bros. was
creating the gangster film with Jimmy Cagney, Bogey, and Edward G.
Robinson that this film claims to emulate.
Affleck’s Hollywood values that he apparently feels required to put into
his film. But in today’s world, one must close one’s eyes to that or
stop going to movies.
And that’s a shame
because this is a good, if hackneyed, story with atmospheric locales. It
would have been so much better without such a phony anticlimax. In fact,
it completely lost me throughout the scenes, another of those with
thousands of bullets flying around in a very small space but none of the
good guys, and I use that term advisedly, get scratched.
But I liked the rest
of it if you can put up with Affleck’s inadequate range.