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BEN Affleck is no doubt an ambitious and tasteful filmmaker, but he’s gotten himself in a bit of hot water with the bloated period gangster epic “Live by Night .” It looks and sounds right and all the elements are there: A conflicted anti-hero with a granite jaw, a fast-talkin’, two-timin’ moll, crooked cops, and a sweaty loyal partner. There’s the one-last-job-gone-awry, some rum-running, a few epic shootouts and the big questions about whether or not our man has become everything he swore he wouldn’t. It seems like enough to hold audience interest for a few hours, but somehow even with all that going for it (not to mention a parade of recognizable faces), “Live by Night” is dull as sin.
The story is adapted by Affleck from a Dennis Lehane novel of the same name. Lehane is the author of the source material for some good to great films like “Mystic River,” ‘’Shutter Island” and Affleck’s first stab at directing, “Gone Baby Gone.” It was a decent gamble that “Live by Night” would be pretty good, too.
Affleck has put himself front and center here as the lead, Joe Coughlin, a once good man who became jaded after serving in World War I. He came back to his hometown of Boston, where his father (Brendan Gleeson) is the Police Chief, with the intention of never answering to anyone. We don’t ever see Joe as a standup citizen, only robbing banks and sleeping with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), the mistress of the town’s most notorious mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). Naturally as soon as Emma and Joe decide to skip town and find a new life somewhere warm (where they come so close to saying that they’ll “live by night” it’s almost annoying that they don’t), things take a turn and Joe is left beaten to a pulp, imprisoned and alone. When he gets out, revenge against Albert White is the only thing on his mind, so he heads to Florida to work for a rival. (AP)