In terms of his directorial output, Ben Affleck has had a perfect track record with me. Gone Baby Gone was one hell of a debut for him and surprisingly his least talked about film in his director catalog (It shouldn’t be, its fantastic). That film was based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, which is a well Affleck is seemingly returning to by adapting another one of his books into Live By Night. For critical reception, its been a rough year for Ben Affleck, with Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice being thrashed (Though he was almost praised across the board for it) and The Accountant getting a mediocre reception (Though being a rock solid hit). It seemed like, well, at least he has his own film to end the year on. A Ben Affleck film was something we thought we could count on. Though, disappointingly, he’d end the year on a huge double whammy, with more awful reviews and a having his film totally bomb at the box office. This, being the film that followed up his widely praised and Academy Award winner for best picture, Argo.
What you put out into this world will always come back to you, but it never comes back how you predict. Taking fatherly advice is not in Joe Coughlin’s nature. Instead, the WWI vet is a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love. Driven by a need to right the wrongs committed against him and those close to him, Joe heads down a risky path that goes against his upbringing and his own moral code. Leaving the cold Boston winter behind, he and his reckless crew turn up the heat in Tampa. And while revenge may taste sweeter than the molasses that infuses every drop of illegal rum he runs, Joe will learn that it comes at a price.
This one has poor ratings across the board, but never did I imagine that I would simply join the likes of them. My score of two is being kind because I thought it was a little better than a one and a half would have been. But, Live By Night really is a dull, uninteresting affair taking place in what should be a piece of cake with exciting period and colorful characters to set a story. While featuring some highlights, the film ultimately is an uninteresting affair that feels like it has false starts and B-plots that go nowhere and feel unnecessary.
The best this movie delivers is in its action and violence. There is a heck of a car chase in the film’s first act that, at the time you don’t realize, is its peak. This chase features some great choreography paired with awesome sound design. And to credit it, the gun violence in the movie really is quite effective as its cold and brutal and will make you squirm in your seat as you watch the life drift from someone in an instant. These are things that make this sound like a great mobster film. Unfortunately, these are smaller details in a boring story.
Live By Night features a pretty terrific cast with either route or uninteresting things to do. Some of the more interesting characters are either off’d early on or disappear after a promising start. Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson and Clark Gregg don’t give us enough while we spend too much time with Chris Cooper and Elle Fanning (Not bad performances, just characters I wasn’t caring much at all for). We’re left with Ben Affleck’s Joe Coughlin who seems like such a back and forther and is a rather unsympathetic criminal. What stinks to, to add to all this, is that Affleck’s performance is one of his weakest in years.
On paper, Live By Night sounded like the next surefire hit in the Ben Affleck director canon. But, what it turned out to be was just dull and uninteresting while getting me to perk up every once in a while when a gun went off. What happened to him? Maybe he was just too busy with the requirements of being Batman (Not to mention he also did The Accountant) and his focus was off or he hurried right into this just to get it done. Its likely Affleck’s plate is just too full right now until he hangs up the cowl. The man is a really good director and this movie is the exception to the rule at this point.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Clarity/Detail: When it comes to the technical specs, they are quite the opposite of the film itself; fantastic and high quality. The image here is crisp, sharp and very detailed. It features a strong look that seems to perform and be as bold in daylight as it is at night. Details on clothing, automobiles and most things carry a nice to the touch look on them.
Depth: Live By Night actually has a very impressive 3 dimensional look to it. Actors move smoothly, clearly and free of any sort of background that look definitely distanced from them. Its this freeness that crafts the full formed look of the image.
Black Levels: Blacks are very deep and rich in the film. The feel on dark sequences objects carrying the color is very romantic almost in display. It does not take away from detail though, as texture, hair follicles and surfaces still carry it. No crushing witnessed in this review.
Color Reproduction: There seems to be a kind of gold filter used in this film at many times. Its not a bright and bursting colorful film as it sticks with its rather normal looking times. However, whites do impress a bit and greens and primary colors do perk up when given the opportunity.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones look natural and keep consistent from scene to shining scene throughout the duration of the feature. Facial details like stubble, make-up, lip texture, cuts, scars, bruising and more all look great in close-ups and very good in medium shots.
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (Listed on the menu as DTS-MA) MA, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Dynamics: Wow, this Atmos track is bad ass. While I was not enthused with the film, every time there was action in this film it was bad-freaking-ass. This one shoves its way right into your living room with a loud, invasive punch you in the face impact. Sound effects impress the most with house loud, distinct, loose and layer they are. Gunfire feels like its actually happening in your room.
Height: A lot of ambiance here but some bullets whizz by and little things here and there happen.
Low Frequency Extension: Tommy gunfire is booming here, not to mention car crashes, engines and punches and kicks. The subwoofer on this film is VERY active and hits hard.
Surround Sound Presentation: Oh yeah, every part of this movie is realized. Shots travel all around the room, cars fly on by and volume placement in on point. Even the film’s quieter scenes have a fully realized environment that feels very present.
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is crisp and clean with all aspects of actor diction carried neatly over. Especially the racist guy’s lisp/spittiness in his talking.
Live By Night comes with an UltraViolet digital copy.
- Director Ben Affleck
Angels with Dirty Faces: The Women of Live By Night (HD, 8:54) – Ben Affleck and Dennis Lehane go over how women of the time were treated and what their roles were regarding their place in the mob. It then moves into interviews with he and the actors going over their parts and what their thoughts on the characters are and what they decided to bring to the part.
The Men of Live By Night (HD, 8:30) – This is basically the same as the previous featurette, but focusing on the males in the film. In this section though, Ben Affleck goes over what it means to “Live By Night” and how the book’s title is represented throughout the movie.
Live By Night‘s Prolific Author (HD, 6:53) – Dennis Lehane talks his process on writing and his thoughts on his characters, words and selling his books to specific people (Affleck, Eastwood, Scorsese). He also talks how he relates to Ben Affleck. Affleck also talks how he goes about adapting the books with cuts and alterations.
In Close Up: Creating a Classic Car Chase (HD, 7:35) – This featurette has Affleck and the stunt crew going over the specifics of the first act car chase and how they built new cars for the thing in an attempt to make an exciting chase with old time cars. It even goes over the scene specific scoring for the chase.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD, 15:56)
There’s no way around it, Live By Night is not just a disappointment, but its a pretty big bore and not a very good film. For those looking into picking it up, the film has a fantastic video and audio presentation. Especially the audio is grand. The extras are a nice little tack on even though erring on the side of being safe. Definitely rent first before buying if you’re curious and haven’t seen the film.