When it was announced that Afleck's new film was going to be a gangster movie, I couldn't wait! Within about a month of the films wide release a fair share of bad reviews began trickling in. That's disappointing! I'm still going to see it reguardless of reviews or a low RT score. Why? Because he's earned it.
Well, the critics were right about this one. LIVE BY NIGHT is sort of a stinker. I'd really like to know the history of this film getting made. In the credits I noticed Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the producers of the movie. After thinking about it I could totally see him in the role of Joe, the main character. So it made me wonder if over time the project finally fell on Affleck's lap?
I also began to wonder if LIVE BY NIGHT was meant to be Ben Affleck's masterpiece? With lots of awkwardly placed voice-over narration, this first thing I thought was there must have been some studio pressure to cut the films run time down. LIVE BY NIGHT really feels to me like a 180 minute movie cut down to about 128 minutes. Because of this the 2 hour and 8 minute run time feels like 4 hours. I cannot speak for the source material the film was adapted from, but a film like LIVE BY NIGHT needs to breathe.
Joe Coughlin (Affleck) is a "outlaw" who likes it just fine being a petty thief robbing banks from time to time. After an affair with a boss man's girl, Joe is double crossed and left for dead. Out of prison he plots his revenge. In order to do this he partners up with his former boss's competition Maso Pescatore. Mr. Pescatore sets Joe up nicely in Tampa, Florida to run illegal booze and open a casino.
Joe quickly does great for awhile but runs into some problems with the KKK. The KKK become a problem because of Joe's Italian crime boss roots and also his new Cuban girlfriend. Another problem is that of a police chief and his born again Christian daughter.
You can already see how epic this story is getting. It's not long before you can tell what everything is leading up to in LIVE BY NIGHT. It's just that when it does happen it gets there too quickly. Or not fast enough! The pacing of the film felt very jarring at times. I've seen enough of these type of movies where I was loving the choices Affleck was making when telling this story, but too many times things fell flat.
I knew beforehand that it took awhile for the ball to get rolling with LIVE BY NIGHT. GONE GIRL delayed production and I'm sure the same could be said about BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE. Maybe too much on Ben's plate is a reason LIVE BY NIGHT comes across as a little bit tired?
In conclusion, I recommend LIVE BY NIGHT. As I've begun writing this post I've grown to like the film a little bit more. It's got issues, but if a Director's Cut ever came out, I'd purchase it day one.