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Movie Review: ‘Live by Night’ is a Ben Affleck Snoozer

Ben Affleck’s newest flick is less than impressive. Read our movie review of Live by Night to find out why the movie flopped:

Ben Affleck looks good in a suit and fedora, but he seems rather stiff in the role of 1920s gangster Joe Coughlin in Live by Night. His expression is constantly mute, but not with some cold-hearted approach to violence. He has a casual nature to his business of prohibition-era booze hustling with threats of violence, but seems to have some sort of soft spot for women and minorities.

Live by Night Movie Review MovieSpoon.com
Ben Affleck looks bored by himself in ‘Live by Night.’

For being such a big player in illegal operations, he’s an incredibly boring character in how Affleck seems so devoid of relatable emotion that I started wondering if he was a robot. Was he afraid of losing that accent? Were the suits too tight? Did he not get enough sleep as he wrote and directed this crime picture? Somebody please wake Affleck up!

Joe has enough interesting events that happen over the course of his life, but most of them are told in the dreariest of tones for a movie with robbery, bootlegging, gunplay, car chases and explosions. He becomes involved with the mafia business when he has an affair with Emma (Sienna Miller), the mistress of the leader of the Irish mob. He’s soon found out by his mob boss, beaten to a pulp and hauled in by the cops.

After having learned that he’s recently lost his father and Emma, Joe believes he has nothing to lose and dives face first into the world of crime. He said he never wanted to become a gangster, but he did anyway. Whatever, he doesn’t question this much anyway as he does with all his actions.

Affleck seems to have confused nothingness with profoundness in how dreary, aimless and forced his character is portrayed. There doesn’t appear to be much a drive for Joe to pursue this line of work in Tampa, but we watch him go through the motions anyway. He builds up the speak-easies and starts making money for the mob, thanks to the easy cooperation of Sheriff Figgis (Chris Cooper). He allies with the Cubans and falls in love with one of them (Zoe Saldana). His old buddy Dion (Chris Messina) acts as his comic relief partner in crime, stealing all the best lines. The Klu Klux Klan attempt to hone in on his turf, but are not too tough to deal with.

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A few sparks maybe?

Things get messy and people die, but so what? There’s a casual and dead nature to all of this in which Joe seems to breezily roll with the punches. But shouldn’t he display some more expression when he falls in love, grows weak for Figgs’ daughter of a drug abuser turned Christian (Elle Fanning) or delivers a sloppy statement about civil rights? I only saw two moments when Affleck didn’t go soft on the role: When he witnesses a woman he loves being gunned down and when he is violently kicked in the genitals.

Live by Night is a movie that doesn’t have time to examine anything as it quickly skips ahead to the next plot point. The relationship between Affleck and Saldana doesn’t have much chemistry, jumping quickly from brief glance to business deal to dancing to sex without much emotional progression. The dialogue is watered down to its most basic of exposition and character where it almost appears as though the actors are not feeling up to the task of such a script.

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Brendon Gleason as Joe’s father appears as though he’s half asleep, slurring his lines and never displaying the bitter anger his character has towards his son. It’s almost as if he’s trying to outshine Affleck in displaying how little an actor cares about the role they’re given. There’s no point in being invested in most of these characters as the majority of them suffer brutal deaths, die off-screen or are just forgotten about.

Read more to get the rest of the movie review for Live by Night and watch the trailer:

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