Film Review: Live By Night

live-by-night1Frances Winston really enjoyed this old-style gangster movie, although it did have its problems!

Directed by: Ben Affleck – Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper

This had barely started, and I was cringing in my seat. Not because of any grotesque visual on screen, but rather because of Sienna Miller’s quite frankly appalling Irish accent.

Within the next few minutes, my eardrums were assaulted once more, when Robert Glenister also made an attempt at a brogue. It was actually a breath of fresh air when Brendan Gleeson appeared on screen, with an authentic Irish accent.

Which then left me even more confused as to why they failed so miserably at it, as, since they had an actual Irishman on set, surely they could have gotten some coaching from him. Or, and this is a rather novel idea Ben Affleck, perhaps next time if you want Irish characters, you could hire actual Irish actors. Accent problem solved!!! Thank me later.

I addressed that last comment to Ben Affleck, because this movie is very much his baby. He wrote, directed, co-produced, and stars in this, like a movie version of Little Britain’s Dennis Waterman character (“I’ll write the theme toon, I’ll sing the theme toon…”). However, like all babies, it can be temperamental, and while this has some incredibly strong elements, it also lets itself down badly in parts.

Affleck plays Joe, a small-time crook, who offers his services to a group of Italian gangsters, to afford him the opportunity to exact revenge on Irish mobster, Albert White (the aforementioned Glenister with his dreadful accent). In the process, he becomes the biggest bootlegger in Florida during the prohibition era, and marries the beautiful Graciella, all the time struggling with his conscience.

One thing that strikes you about this is how beautiful it looks. There is some simply stunning cinematography, and Affleck proves to have a real eye for a striking shot, with one or two being simply breathtaking. The soundtrack is also excellent, and completely complements the visuals.

Accents aside, the cast do a good job – just good, not great. But good works. They all have a good (there’s that word again) chemistry, and bounce off each other well. However, many of them are caricatures that were clearly written that way, and they are definitely somewhat hindered by the script.

Many of the scenes feel a bit dragged-out and self-serving, and even the climax feels like it could have happened ten minutes earlier (and the opening could have been completely cut in half!). Ironically, Affleck is probably the weakest actor here, and plays Joe nearly completely one-tonal throughout.

There is also a huge amount of telegraphing going on, and you will see many things coming a mile away. The story itself has a huge amount of different elements, which also contributes to a pacing problem, as Affleck tries to tie up all the loose ends he has created for himself.

Alongside this, there are one or two rather violent scenes, which some audience members may find disturbing (I guarantee you one scene will make you cross your legs and squirm) and it did feel somewhat like they were included simply to get a shocked reaction from viewers.

Don’t get me wrong. I did really enjoy this as a viewer – it just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

But if you just fancy a very stylised old-school gangster film, this is ‘yer only man’.

In Cinemas January 13th!

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