Between The Accountant and Live By Night, it almost looks like Ben Affleck really wants to act as Bruce Wayne in a good movie.
Based on a novel of the same name, Live By Night follows the life of Joe Coughlin, a good guy gone gangster. Ben Affleck not only stars, but also writes and directs this film and the cracks of overwork just may be showing.
While the movie begins with a bit of a heavy attempt at a noir tone, the first act never really finds the darkness inherent of the genre. And by the time you can get used to it, we’re launched into the much quicker paced (also, better paced) second act that quickly abandons the tropes that it seemed to have been enslaved to.
Not that that’s really a bad thing given that the second act introduces a far more interesting premise than your run of the mill gangster movie, and also takes the opportunity to work in some very much needed humour in the form of Affleck’s and Chris Messina’s chemistry.
(Sidenote: As a The Mindy Project fan, seeing Chris Messina in this role was gold. Not that he isn’t great in the show, but his character’s become kind one-note, so it’s kinda reassuring that he’s more than just Danny.)
With a supporting cast with the likes of Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, and Brendan Gleeson, Live By Night has a lot going for it. Unfortunately, the story kinda lets it down.
Meandering through a series of somewhat story-related sequences, the movie itself mostly suffers when scenes dealing with the actual growth and progress of the protagonist forces him into the narrative.
For example, Coughlin’s meeting with his love Graciela Corrales, as played by Zoe Saldana, is introduced by way of a side plot that only exists until her union with him. After which, she pretty mucg becomes the First Lady, and almost all references to her gangster background is forgotten.
Similarly, the transition to the end of the movie is marked by the odd choice of returning to the movie’s previous attempt at a noir overtone, making it feel like you’re suddenly watching a comedy with a really dark ending.
Of course, a lot of this conflicting tones could probably be attributed to a very noble attempt by Affleck trying to stay as faithful to the source material as he could. Even omitted plot points from the novel are passingly hinted to. Unfortunately, this also results in the case of sudden plot point reappearances (or disappearances) that sometimes feels like they’re being utilised purely for the sake of convenience.
This kinda makes the ending of the movie feel a little unnecessary and you end up walking out of the theatre feeling like you’re leaving behind an experience as opposed to carrying it out with you.
Live By Night is out in all theatres now!