Ben Affleck’s adaptation of the American novelist Dennis Lehane’s work Live by Night is limp at best, mind-numbing and tedious at worst. Affleck has previously proved himself capable by tailoring Lehane’s novels to the screen, directing the film Gone Baby Gone in 2007. This time, however, Affleck has shot bullet holes into the 1920s gangster film’s script and production, resulting in a starkly disappointing experience. The film was as dry as the Prohibition era the crime drama is set in. By the end the surplus of alcohol that illegally flourished during this time would have been welcome.
‘By the end the surplus of alcohol that illegally flourished during this time would have been welcome.’
Affleck’s character, Joe Coughlin, is the dynamic reprobate son of a Boston Irish police officer, (Brendan Gleeson), who turns to a life of crime after being involved in the destructive violence of The First World War. Before long, his dalliance in corrupt card games evolves into something a little more sinister when he is offered a job by notorious Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). Sienna Miller stars as the cynical Irish girlfriend of White that Affleck’s character secretly romances. Miller’s performance, and Gleeson’s, were the brilliant sparks that were instantly lost in the distended cliché of the film. A few skilled performances weren’t enough to distract from the derisory dialogue and mediocre music score.
‘Miller’s performance, and Gleeson’s, were the brilliant sparks that were instantly lost in the distended cliché of the film.’
Affleck’s acting is stilted and artificial, hardly appearing relaxed in the role he had written himself. Perhaps he prefers a more heroic character, but his recent portrayal of Batman wasn’t sterling either. Despite being driven by risky passion and revenge the entire plot was so meticulously contrived that it fails to create an ounce of intrigue. Perhaps Affleck has stunted his own success after his Oscar win, because this disaffected performance lacks the ambition, scope and authenticity required to not only be considered a crime film, but enjoyable to watch.
(Image courtesy of All Star/Warner Bros)