Set during the 1920’s, Live By Night follows Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) as he becomes entangled in an underground network of gangsters, fighting over rum. There’s some good stuff here but unfortunately the film suffers from a serious case of dull. The film never feels like it picks up pace and Affleck’s un-charismatic performance does nothing to elevate this otherwise mediocre gangster movie.
The story itself has its twists and turns but both come right at the end of this 128 minute thriller and feel rushed – the only time the story ironically feels quicker in pace. There’s car chases, tense confrontations, double crossings and a great shoot-out but they become diluted in the dullness that unfortunately plagues the film and makes it feel like its dragging at times.
The characters are well fleshed out but never get enough screen-time as Affleck dominates the screen time. The three lead females, Loretta (Elle Fanning), Emma (Sienna Miller) and Graciela (Zoe Saldana) are the stand outs here and its a pity they only get a fraction of the screen time in this bloated 2 hour crime thriller.
The costumes, music and overall camera work are excellent. The action scenes are shot well, the costumes are all accurate and really make you feel like this is set within the correct time period and the lighting is very well done. It’s a pity then, that the story and overall pacing is this film’s biggest problem and I can’t help but feel that with a bit of refinement, this film would have been a good gangster thriller.