Live by Night (2016)

(On Cable TV, August 2017) As frustrating as it can be to write this, Live by Night should be a much better movie than it is. From afar, it looks like a solid crime epic, spanning years and going from Boston to Florida as a gangster juggles love, crime, social prejudices and warring crime lords. The historical recreation of 1920s Boston and Sarasota is often mesmerizing, Ben Affleck has proven himself to be a capable director and the film can rely on good supporting performers like Elle Fanning, Zoë Saldaña and Chris Cooper. In bits and moments, Live by Night works well: There are a few very good sequences as the bullet start to fly and antique cars go crashing down dirt roads. Seeing criminals sock it to KKK Klansmen is also a sure crowd pleaser. But as a whole, it doesn’t click. It feels long and occasionally meandering, as it tries to bring together a crime story with various other items than don’t necessarily flow well together. Has Affleck gone back once too often to crime drama? Or was the source novel by Dennis Lehane too sprawling to adapt to the screen? I’m not sure, but the frustrating result does no one any favours—especially not Affleck, who gets a dud after three back-to-back successes. Here’s hoping that his next project will be better.

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