After the success of Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have both gone on to pretty incredible careers in the movies. But for a while there, it looked like Damon was getting all the choice projects, especially with scoring the Bourne series. That seemed to start changing after he directed the film Gone Baby Gone in 2007. And he skyrocketed after directing and starring in Argo in 2012. Since Argo he has scored some impressive acting gigs including Gone Girl, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the phenomenal The Accountant. But it took him four years to get back in the director’s chair. And who knows if he will return to it after the box office disaster that was Live By Night. But did the film deserve the failure?
Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a career criminal in 1920’s Boston who gains notoriety by setting up shop in Florida and taking on local mobsters, police and even the KKK. Born the son of a police captain, Joe is determined to make a name and a life for himself away from Boston, but also finds a life of crime often comes with a hefty price tag.
Live By Night is actually a pretty great crime drama. It has shades of many other gangster films before it but still feels fresh and unique in its own right. Affleck is great as Coughlin, a man who pretty much resorted to crime just to be different from his father. And he really seems to enjoy the business part more than the gangster part, which isn’t to say he won’t do whatever is necessary to make the business part work. The film starts with a nice gritty city feel with the Boston scenes but transitions into a lush tropical vibe once the action moves to Florida. Affleck is confident behind the camera, perhaps more so than in front of it, and Live By Night is yet another fine example of that. He directs in a very old school style, opting more for measured and deliberate camera work over hyper editing. And he surrounds himself with great talent as well with a supporting cast including Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Titus Welliver, and Max Casella. Don’t let the poor box office performance keep you from Live By Night; maybe audiences just weren’t in the mood for a solid crime flick. I really dug Live By Night, check it out for yourself. Definitely recommended.