It’s fair to say that Ben Affleck hasn’t been having the best of luck with his films recently. His efforts as Batman in numerous films last year didn’t pay off all that well and even his new action movie, ‘The Accountant’ was met with a mixed response. At least he has his directorial projects to fall back on, of which he is three for three in terms of quality film making. Has his latest film ‘Live By Night’, which he has written and directed, arrived just in time then?
Many will say that this is a better film than his last three movies, not a massive feat in itself however, this is still a picture laden with issues. The narrative is quite strangely put together, rather than one fluid story the film is continually made up of quite episodic like sub plots. Now I quite enjoyed these sub plots in their isolation, some more than others, but this set up stopped me from emotionally engaging with the characters and their motives. Drama aside, being a gangster flick, within the narrative some action scenes are to be expected. There weren’t maybe as many of these as there should have been but I liked what I saw, the highlight of which was a car chase near the beginning of the film. It was cool to see the 1920’s style cars in action and the way in which this and the other action sequences were shot was very visually appealing. Affleck certainly does better work behind the camera this time than in front of it. The film does look well and there are several stunning looking shots utilised well as transitions between scenes.
It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Affleck’s performance though, as this has to be one of the most lifeless performances I have ever seen from the leading man. He hardly seemed like he wanted to be there, this wasn’t helped by the costume department dressing him in the most awful array of hats & suits which looked nothing but awkward on him. As a result he stuck out like a sore thumb, maybe this was intentional as his character consistently insists that he doesn’t want to be a gangster but even at that he still looks so out of place. The rest of the performances are hit and miss; at least the wide range of characters kept the film interesting when the dialogue failed to. It’s the supporting cast such as Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Chris Messina & Robert Glenister who come across best. The female cast are largely dealt a poor hand with Zoe Saldana being little else than a plot device & Sienna Miller struggling to overcome her Irish twang. Elle Fanning manages to at least be memorable as she has the most interesting sub plot, I wish more time had been devoted to her as this area I thought had the most potential for intrigue.
Unfortunately ‘Live By Night’ does little to help the recent state of the Batfleck’s filmography, whilst it is perfectly enjoyable and entertained me for it’s run time, it does little to inspire rewatches. While the narrative is packed full of content it fails to connect any of it with the audience, much due to the fault of Affleck’s subdued lead performance. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag but with a poor screenplay to start with there was little they could really do. I still found elements of the film-making to appreciate here but it would be untrue to say anything other than this is the weakest of Affleck’s directorial career.
Rating – 6.5/10
Question: Which is your favourite film directed by Ben Affleck?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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