Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson
Release Date: March 21, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 9/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
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.
‘Live By Night’ tells the story of outlaw Joe Coughlin (Affleck) revolving around the time of prohibition. After continually making a point of avoiding the gangster lifestyle, following a troubling time and after being terribly wronged, with nowhere else to turn Joe reluctantly accepts a job with a powerful crime family which leads to him falling deep into the outlaw lifestyle as he begins to operate and gain some notice among the fellow outlaws and the law alike. With his faithful right hand man Dion (Messina) by his side and never troubled by handling the bloodier aspects of the work, before long Joe acquires nearly everything he needs. Yet as Joe is not only confronted with past wrongs but forced to handle deadly issues with powerful organizations that threaten him and his, the simple and logical path he set out upon continues to grow far more complicated along the way.
Directed by Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Baby Gone) from his own screenplay which was based upon the novel by Dennis Lehane respectively, Affleck does a fantastic job at the helm of ‘Live By Night’ guiding the story along with constant style and beauty. The film also owes a good share of credit to the talented folks that comprise the cast that is also headlined by Affleck himself and additionally includes Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon), Brendan Gleeson (Edge of Tomorrow), Chris Messina (Argo), Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher), Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Chris Cooper (American Beauty) along with more, nearly all delivering highly competent performances in each of their respective roles, although Chris Messina tends to have no trouble stealing nearly every scene he occupies with his splendid portrayal of Joe’s right hand man Dion.
‘Live By Night’ is an incredibly enjoyable ride, equal parts beautiful, powerful, sexy and fairly violent. Taking viewers back to the era of prohibition with crooks around each and every turn, and not only courtesy of the specified time period, but by capturing every miniscule detail such as masterfully recreating cars, houses, and a great deal more such as clothing styles from the era in order to truly immerse viewers within the story and time it occurs. ‘Live By Night’ also captures the atmosphere, sounds and everything else of the era spectacularly and the wise choice to opt for a constant noir-like, old school aura really seals the deal. Aside from such unarguable facts as the actors’ obvious age, it almost allows the viewer to truly believe this may have just been a film from another era that was itself shot quite some time ago. Ben Affleck returns to the helm for his first directorial effort following the amazing ‘Argo’ and he does an outstanding job as usual, guiding this gorgeous and powerful tale along with ease and his capable guidance is only further complimented by a number of notable performances (including his own) from a talented cast. I would strongly urge anyone who appreciates a well crafted and executed gangster flick that channels movies of old and offers far more than mere senseless violence, along with fellow fans of Affleck’s talent behind the camera to both make a point of giving ‘Live By Night’ a shot when you have the opportunity to do so. Even while a drastically different style and type of film than Affleck’s previous efforts behind the camera in many regards, he consistently rises to the challenge; I would definitely encourage anyone the slightest bit interested in ‘Live By Night’ to ignore the negative reviews and decide for yourself; there’s a good chance you won’t be the slightest bit disappointed with this well constructed and incredibly fun flick.
Overall, ‘Live By Night’ is a fast paced, gorgeous and solid throwback to old school gangster films. Offering nearly flawless recreations of the era down to every small detail such as the suspenders on the clothes, and constantly utilizing a bright, warm colored noir type atmosphere throughout, it’s a wonderful and incredibly enjoyable film that is well worth taking the time to check out. Affleck yet again proves himself to be a fantastic director and his capable guidance is only further boosted by a stellar cast that never disappoints. ‘Live By Night’ definitely earns one of my highest recommendations, especially for other fans of Affleck’s talented work as a director, and those who appreciate a gorgeous, somewhat violent and just plain fun gangster flick that captures nearly every aspect of the era beautifully. This one should certainly be worth the cost of a rental at the very least for anyone who is the slightest bit intrigued by it.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Live By Night’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks fantastic as a whole and delivers a clean, sharp and gorgeous presentation throughout that splendidly represents the bright vivid colors and breathtaking scenery always on prominent display. It holds up admirably even during the darkly lit and/or fast paced sequences and never causes anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a solid high definition video presentation that should largely please the masses.
The Blu-ray release features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This lossless multichannel soundtrack provides an immersive, sharp and aggressive audio presentation from start to finish. It constantly takes advantage of all seven available channels in order to send music, bullets, explosions, debris, and plenty more whipping throughout the various speakers, and never resulting in any dialogue which may be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible along the way. Overall, this is an outstanding Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible soundtrack) that adds another layer of excitement to the overall viewing experience and should thrill even the pickiest of audiophiles.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Live By Night’ includes a few worthwhile extras. Included on the release is a ‘Director’s Commentary track’ featuring Ben Affleck, in addition to a collection of ‘Deleted Scenes’ with optional commentary (running approximately 16 minutes in length altogether). We are also treated to a few behind the scenes Featurettes that include behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus more; they include: ‘Angels with Dirty Faces: The Women of Live By Night’ (running approximately 9 minutes), ‘Good Guys and Bad Guys: The Men of Live By Night’ (approximately 9 minutes), ‘Live By Night’s Prolific Author’ (7 minutes), and ‘In Close Up: Creating A Classic Car Chase’ (8 minutes).