Jean-Paul’s Review: 3/5 stars
Bottom Line: A sprawling epic with gangsters and shootouts. A little too much going on, but doesn’t get out of control.
“Live by Night” is about a Prohibition era Irish Boston gangster, Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck), whose libido gets the best of him and lands him in trouble with the local Irish mob boss. What an original concept. From there, it goes crazy. Joe escapes the mob boss only to land in jail for a bank robbery gone wrong where police got killed only to be saved from certain death by his father who is a cop, spends years in jail, joins the Italian mob in order to get revenge on the Irish mob boss, moves down to Florida to get said revenge, doesn’t really get revenge as much as build the biggest rum running racket known to man, fights the KKK, tries to get gambling legalized only to be thwarted by a prostitute drug addict turned preacher whom he rescued from addiction, gets double crossed by the Italian mob boss and finally gets revenge on the Irish mob boss, leaves the life only to have the love of his life killed by the father of the prostitute he once saved because he kind of blackmailed the father with pictures of the daughter, and lives out his life with his son. And I skipped a bunch of stuff too. This is a sprawling story but it works.
The movie was written by, directed by, and stars Ben Affleck and he has a solid list of backup actors helping him including Elle Fanning as Jim’s original love interest, Brendan Gleeson as Jim’s father, Zoe Saldana as Jim’s second love interest, and Chris Cooper as the father of the prostitute, just to name a few. Add to that, some wonderful Prohibition Era backdrops and costuming and you have a solid movie. The only real problem with it is the superfluous stories that don’t really add much to the movie. It’s perfectly fine to create a sprawling epic, but you must make damn sure you have a good editor if you’re going to do so.
I’d say “Live by Night” is definitely worth seeing. My initial reaction was to give it four stars but only held back as I thought about it some more. It is a very enjoyable movie from an entertainment point of view as long as you don’t think to much about its failings after the fact.