It is not entirely flawed but it is mostly
There is a well known saying: ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth.’ In the case of Live By Night it’s: ‘Too many Affleck’s spoil the broth.’ Even though there’s only one…
Live By Night is the story of soldier turned gangster Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck). Based on the original novel by Dennis Lehane, Coughlin returns from World War One and carries out petty crimes which lands him in jail. Upon his release, his crimes become a little less petty.
It would not be a spoiler to say that Coughlin becomes a mafia boss in Tampa, Florida, as it happens fairly early in the film and this is where the issues start. The man literally leaves prison and is given a whole city to reside over, by a mafia family he has never worked for or with before. Live By Night often skips whole sections by using one line of twee Affleck narration. Which just does not work.
Not only is the narration badly used throughout, but Affleck’s acting in general is at its weakest. He seems to flick between his two facial expressions intermittently throughout the film: Mouth-closed and mouth-open. He plays his gangster like a 43 year old dad cracking wise guy jokes and tormenting blue coats for a fortnight at the Skegness branch of Butlins.The script is very shaky, with lots of conversations between characters that either mean nothing or they are such a snoozefest that it’s difficult to pay attention long enough to listen to what they are saying.
It does however have some redeeming features. The costumes in general are enjoyable and and the world does look like a mobster riddled Boston, even if it does have the feel of a movie set in a film studio; Where the impending moment of the actor playing the director shouts cut and walks on screen is just around the corner.
It is not entirely flawed but it is mostly. If Live By Night was to be gauged from just a single scene, it would be the one where Ben Affleck blends into a wicker chair. A beige, wicker chair.