Friday, 3 February 2017

Live By Night

Okay. I know that Ben Affleck is incredibly famous and therefore can pretty much do whatever he wants now. But I went to see this film with a good friend of mine and we both left more than a little baffled at how this film was bungled so badly, so apologies if this review seems a little lost in translation. I’ll do what I can to try and make sense of this Batfleck rollercoaster and maybe it’ll help me understand it better? Here goes nothing.

Set in the 1920’s, Live By Night follows the life of ‘good man’ Joe Coughlin, who becomes disillusioned with the life of rules and laws after his time serving the war in France. Upon his return home he turns to petty crime and robberies, which he executes with his trusted partner Dion (Chris Messina). Although content in this life, Joe’s father and Chief of Police Thomas (Brendan Gleeson) warns him that his bad deeds will come back around. In particular, Thomas is concerned about Joe’s fraternising with Irish mob boss Albert White’s (Robert Glenister) mistress, Emma Gould (Sienna Miller). When their affair is discovered Joe is beaten almost to death, and after serving time seeks out revenge on White by joining his rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone). From here, Joe and Dion set up shop in Florida and attempt to make a living illegally transporting rum to Pescatore’s speakeasies, however seem to run into trouble at every turn. Conquering the coast while prohibition is still in full swing, the pair must make decisions about what is more important to them: money or morals. The film also attempts to discuss issues of love, loss and family, while being surprisingly funny in moments.

The positives: The amount of historical references this film has is actually pretty cool. Its clear that Affleck was trying to be as accurate as possible, and although he fell a little short of the mark at times, it still made for a lot of interesting plot twists in the film. The acting from Messina, as well as Elle Fanning’s role as Loretta Figgis (the daughter of Florida Chief of Police) really stood out as both comic relief and symbols of purity in the world of skewed morals respectively. As well as this, the acting from both of the major mob bosses (Girone and Glenister) was also gritty and at times genuinely frightening. However, of all the scary things about this picture, the worst is that its still surprisingly relevant to the world of today. With issues of race relations, dirty cops and even the Ku Klux Klan making an appearance, this film feels as though it speaks to a lot societal issues, even though its set back in the 20’s and 30’s. Its actually a little depressing to think about, but its true.

The negatives: How do I even begin to talk about the plot of this film? Although the subject matter and characters were interesting (partly because I’m a sucker for 1920’s history), after about 40 minutes in the entire setting changes and it feels as though you’re watching an entirely different film. There were parts of the dialogue that felt unnecessarily convoluted, and plot points that came out of left field and left me struggling to keep up. In short, some of the most interesting parts of the movie didn’t revolve around Affleck’s character, most of the female characters were simply used as pawns for the males, and there were other bits that just felt slow and ruined a lot of the fun of the action, like the chase scenes and shootouts. All in all, the film felt like it was edited poorly and the scriptwriters hadn’t been given enough time to work out the kinks, which is a shame because this could’ve been a really great film had it been thought through more.

If you’re like me and you love the 1920’s era, or maybe you’re just an Affleck fan, you might enjoy this film. But its definitely not worth a watch in the cinema and its messy setup really let it down. Hopefully we’ll see better from Affleck in the future.

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