Live by Night was a rather odd film starring Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin, an outlaw that eventually becomes part of the various gang wars the plagued the Prohibition era. The movie was odd in that it felt quite bloated with a string of events that were just sorted throughout. There was just so much going on with separate stories that were only touched upon despite being more interesting than whatever the general plot was.
I felt that there was a lot to tell, but it was cut to two hours with bits of gap filling narration from Ben Affleck. It does tell a story of sorts, but goes on further than it should have and never seemed to exactly have a point. Originally I could tell that this was a story of revenge over a romance and life taken away, but this seemed to be completely forgotten for a large chunk of the movie to randomly appear later.
There also never feels as though any timeline is established despite the events maybe taking place over a decade, yet that's never told and we never seen any aging or changes for the main character. This doesn't quite fit though as he seems to have certain beliefs in how things are to go, yet these are always changing and never valued. There's a constant theme of hitting the point of no return by actions though this isn't truly explored and we never see any major effect based on any decisions Joe makes.
The gangster film is something that's not touched on too often in recent times and this doesn't capture the glory of those old movies. It doesn't even fit well as time piece as it never embraces the look of the era. It looks as though it's shot as a modern film, but with old type clothing and vehicles.
Not to say it wasn't beautifully shot as there were some great cinematography at times, perhaps even too drawn out yet great to look at. I also had a hard time in believing that Tom was ever a true gangster despite actions and his badass moments, they just didn't seem to carry weight.
In one scene where he places a gun down on a table I somewhat had a laugh as it wasn't tense or even threatening. There were some great moments in the film such as a smart trap for a big shootout or how he handled business, but these should have had more focus. I will also give a mention to Chris Messina which played Affleck's right hand man Dion Bartolo which was fantastic and best represented the style of a gangster.
There was certainly some interesting aspects to Live by Night and it was disappointing to see it fail to come together. It was quite long to the point that I thought it might finish a couple times near the end and it kept going. It really did feel as though this could have been divided into multiple films almost as there were too many stories attempting to be told at once and a wide range of things that went on.
It was almost like they had a pile of great ideas of what was happening during the era and wanted to fit everything in. Ben Affleck didn't quite hit that tough gangster feel and never came across as threatening or even close to hitting an edge of truly embracing what it takes to be in that business.
Review for Live by Night at Theater with standard Viewing
Screening was Provided by Warner Brothers