Boston, 1926. The '20s are roaring. Liquor is flowing, bullets are flying, and one man sets out to make his mark on the world. Prohibition has given rise to an endless network of underground distilleries, speakeasies, gangsters, and corrupt cops. Joe Coughlin, the youngest son of a prominent Boston police captain, has long since turned his back on his strict and proper upbringing. Now having graduated from a childhood of petty theft to a career in the pay of the city's most fearsome mobsters, Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being an outlaw. But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one-neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover-can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt. Joe embarks on a dizzying...Written by
When Joe enters a ballroom searching for Emma, the press card in his hat is vertical. In the next shot, this card is leaning to the back of the hat. In the following shot, it's vertical again. See more »
In 1917, I signed up to fight the Huns in France. Good men died all around me, and I saw no reason for it. The rules we lived by were lies. And they didn't apply to those who made them. I swore If I made it home, I would never follow orders again. I left a soldier, I came home an outlaw.
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A movie based on a novel by Dennis "Mystic River, Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone" Lehane, dealing with a revenge-seeking gangster, living in an uncomfortable nexus between Boston prohibition era gang wars, southern Floridian racial politics and revival tent religiousness. How, oh how did they screw this one up? How could they have taken a story so immediately appealing and thick with tried-and-true genre conventions exploring worthwhile themes, and turned it into a disjointed Frankenstein's monster? I'm not so much asking because I'm angry, I'm asking because I'm genuinely impressed.
Live by Night centers on the complicated machinations of Boston hoodlum Joe Coughlin (Affleck) whose small time banditry captures the attention of rival mob bosses. While Joe is Irish (and the son of a police constable), his sympathies lie more or less with Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Girone). He further endears himself to Pescatore after Irish mob boss Albert White (Glenister) kills Coughlin's lover (Miller) and nearly kills him if not for the interference of Boston's finest. After a stint in jail, Joe vows revenge by administrating Pescatore's interests in Tampa while choking White and his crew out of the rum trade. While doing so, Joe falls in love with a local crime bosses sister (Saldana), truces with Tampa's Police Chief (Cooper) and receives the ire of the local KKK.
Live by Night, for all its good intentions, has all the focus of a barrel of buckshot. It sprays its themes in every which way desperately hoping the audience will connect the dots with extended periods of voice over narration. When we're not forced to listen to Affleck's gravelly voiced monologues, we get to experience the actor himself, who uneasily takes the limelight by wearing his wardrobe with the color symbolism of a mood ring.
The tragedy is as a proved actor and director, Affleck should have been able to take this kind of material and make it shine like a fifty cent piece. But due to maybe the vastness of the material (or maybe Warner Bros. penchant for meddling), Affleck just seems unsure of himself both in front and behind the camera. Each scene is caked with exciting period detail yet there's no pulse, no bustle, not vibrancy to everything that's put on the screen. There are a lot of good moments in the film (many provided by Matthew Maher's deep fried racist nincompoop), but because there's such a lack of focus or tension, each moment happens in a vacuum and slowly suffocates in the void.
Live by Night feels like three great seasons of a decent cable show that's been chopped up and awkwardly smooshed together to make a highlights reel. Just like the skeleton of the casino that's being built in this film, everywhere you look there are hints of grandeur. Unfortunately that grandeur never comes and all you're left with is a great looking structure that's quickly sinking in a swamp of molasses.
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