Blu-ray Review: ‘Live By Night’

Well, it appears that Ben Affleck’s perfect record as a director has come to an end, but not without delivering some entertainment along the way. Not to mention a few fantastic scenes. Nobody can knock it out of the park every time, but it seems that even an Affleck failure has enough to offer that I can’t fault anybody who enjoys it. It certainly has its moments.

The real issues with the film lie in the first 20 min and the last 10. Almost everything else in between is pretty exceptionally well crafted. There are fantastic shots, a good score, intriguing history, some exciting action sequences, and several wonderfully written scenes. Some might find quarrel with how much time he devotes to one subject or another, but it flowed pretty smoothly in the middle for me.

The opening is a different story. The film opens with a voiceover about the history of Joe Coughlin’s (Affleck) criminal escapades and relationships from 1917 to 1927. The most important part is his love affair with a gangsters girlfriend name Emma Gould (Sienna Miller). The decisions that define the rest of his life hinge on this relationship and that’s the biggest problem with the movie. This relationship is mostly explained in voiceover. There are a few scenes together, but they pick up mid-stream and lack much passion.

The passion isn’t really their with the other relationship in Coughlin’s life either. Her name is Graciela (Zoe Saldana) and she does provide a little bit of needed spice to Joe’s life. Yet, it’s in the inner workings of the Rum business and the gangster tough guy shit that Affleck succeeds in. There are several excellent action sequences and a few scenes where the dialogue is picture perfect. I especially like a scene between Coughlin and the local Sherriff’s daughter (Elle Fanning) towards the end of the second act. Fanning just steals the show here.

As a matter of fact, all the women steal the show here, but especially Miller and Fanning. Fanning in a pure, but broken kind of way. Miller in a more dark and mysterious way. Saldana is also good. However, her talents are mostly alluring and the rest is one note. It’s the other ladies and Brendan Gleason as his father that truly own this movie most of the time. There may be lots of Affleck, but it’s these side characters that carry the show.

Which is another problem. There are moments where Affleck shines through as Coughlin, but mostly he’s an uninteresting character. You couple this with the weak book ends and you get a movie that’s filled with entertaining sections, but feels hollow overall. Am I upset I saw it? No. It was moderately entertaining. Will I watch it again? Probably not. Whichever you choose will be up to you. With all the good movies out right now, you’re not missing much here.

Nathan Ligon

Nathan Ligon

Film / Theater / Music Critic at Red Carpet Crash
The son of Executive Producer Jon Ligon, Nathan has spent his life in the company of filmmakers and some of the best musicians in Dallas, TX. He has since become a highly viewed critic and short filmmaker for Red Carpet Crash and Shot & Cut Films.
Nathan Ligon

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