(US - 2016)
Written and directed by Ben Affleck. Cast: Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Elle Fanning, Remo Girone, Robert Glenister, Miguel J. Pimentel, Matthew Maher, Anthony Michael Hall, Clark Gregg, Max Casella, J.D. Evermore, Christian Clemenson, Benjamin Ciaramello, Derek Mears. (R, 130 mins)
Ben Affleck made his directing debut with 2007's excellent Dennis Lehane adaptation GONE BABY GONE, and after establishing himself as a solid filmmaker with 2010's THE TOWN and 2012's Best Picture Oscar-winner ARGO, he returns with LIVE BY NIGHT, based on another Lehane novel. Where GONE BABY GONE and THE TOWN (based on a Chuck Hogan novel) were set in contemporary Boston, LIVE BY NIGHT looks at the city in a Prohibition-era setting. While Affleck the director captures the look of late 1920s Boston, his script is all over the place and he's completely miscast in the lead role. Affleck isn't an actor who thrives in period pieces and the film would've been better served had he stayed behind the camera as he did with GONE BABY GONE and cast someone else (co-producer Leonardo DiCaprio, perhaps?). With his Panama hat and oversized suit, he never looks comfortable in the role of Joe Coughlin, a WWI vet and Boston stick-up man-turned-Tampa rum runner. There's simply too much story for a feature film, and here is yet another example of an overstuffed film that would've been better served as a cable miniseries where characters could be fleshed out and events wouldn't be so glossed over. The pacing is choppy and there's reams of sleepy,, mumbly Affleck narration to cover exposition and whole sections of plot that are missing, not to mention Scott Eastwood and Titus Welliver having their entire roles cut out (Welliver is still in the credits, but if he's there, I didn't see him). Robert Richardson's cinematography and Jess Gonchor's production design are top-notch and every now and again, there's a striking image (like a car engulfed in flames sticking out of a shallow lake) or a memorable line of dialogue (the "So what am I talkin' to you for?" bit is great), but the cluttered and muddled LIVE BY NIGHT is otherwise is just too familiar to make its own mark in the gangster genre, borrowing too many ideas from too many movies that came before it to tell a story we've seen countless times before.