Review: Live By Night the crime drama that is only suit deep

Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin in Live By Night, which he also directed. Picture: Warner Bros.

Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin in Live By Night, which he also directed. Picture: Warner Bros. - Credit: Archant

Ben Affleck directs and stars in prohibition era crime drama where everybody wears greats suits from a novel by Dennis Lehane.

Live By Night (15)


In this prohibition era crime drama everybody wears greats suits, even though there's a great depression on.

In his fourth film as director Ben Affleck doesn't just get to play a gangster, he gets to play the perfect Hollywood gangster role: a gangster who takes on the KKK, has a black girlfriend and gets to make speeches about how corrupt the American way of life is. His performance though is only suit deep.

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Affleck also wrote the screenplay which, just like his first directorial effort Gone Baby Gone, is adapted from a novel by Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island, Mystic River, The Drop).

Presumably his crime novels are real page turners and Affleck doesn't seem to have found many pages he didn't want to include.

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As a result the film is stuffed with incidents. Affleck robs banks in Boston. He has a secret affair with the girlfriend (Sienna Miller) of a big local crime boss (Philip Glenister.) His father (Brendan Gleason) is a police chief and doesn't approve. He gets sent to prison. Then he gets sent down to Florida to run an Italian mob bootlegging operation.

And that's just the first half hour.

Live By Night is like binge watching a ten episode epic crime drama in just over two hours. We are introduced to people and situations, and then they quickly disappear to be replaced with some other people and situations who don't stick around long either, such is the haste to whip through a few more pages.

Affleck is the only constant: it's as if all these supporting characters are bringing tributes to him, trying to entice him to become interested in them and their storyline, but none of them manage to engage his, or our, attention.

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