At first glance, Live by Night, trailer, bears all the hallmarks of a great film. It is directed by accomplished US filmmaker Ben Affleck. His past features, including Argo, The Town, and Gone, Baby, Gone, were all well received. Further, the screenplay is based on US author Dennis Lehane’s 2012 novel of the same name.
Several of Lehane’s books, Mystic River, and Shutter Island, have also been adapted into acclaimed films. Together with the aforementioned Gone, Baby, Gone, which was also directed by Affleck. Then add to the mix gangsters, the roaring twenties, and prohibition rackets. Surely the recipe for a great flick, right?
Joe (Ben Affleck), finds himself displaced after returning to Boston at the end of the first world war. A life of crime – much to the chagrin of his father, Thomas (Brendan Gleeson), a police officer – seems to be the only tonic. After a stint in jail, following a botched bank robbery, Joe decides to relocate to Florida.
There he heads up a rum racketeering operation for Italian mobster Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), along with Dion (Chris Messina). Joe also looks for a way to hit back at Albert White (Robert Glenister), a rival of Pescatore, who was also responsible for the death of his Irish girlfriend, Emma (Sienna Miller).
For all its promise though, “Live by Night” ends up sleep-walking from one scene to the next. Sure, it is beautifully filmed, and much care was taken in recreating the United States of the 1920s. But what’s missing is the essence of Affleck’s earlier works. The tension of “The Town”? The drama of “Argo”? All missing here, I’m afraid.