GANGSTERS DONE RIGHT
Film Review by Fiore
Like Westerns, gangster movies hold a revered spot in Hollywood. From the Golden Era of Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and George Raft, through Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro, organized crime captures audiences with style and brutality. Ben Affleck’s name can now be added to that list, as he directs, stars and pens one of the better gangster films in quite some time, LIVE BY NIGHT.
LIVE BY NIGHT takes place in Boston, and as such is a sister to the mob glory days of Al Capone and the Chicago syndicate. It’s the roaring ‘20’s, and Prohibition is the law of the land, spawning a complex network of bootleggers. This is a time in the Northeast, before the Italians ruled the crime world, and battles are raging between various ethnic groups for control of the lucrative booze and prostitution businesses.
In Boston, the Irish are at odds with the Italians for the bootlegging empire. Albert White, played by Robert Glenister heads the Irish mob, while Maso Pescatore, played by Remo Girone, is his Italian counterpart. Caught in the middle of the two warring gangster bosses is Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck). Joe is a returning war hero, who wants nothing to do with either gang, but rather opts to work small jobs on his own with no allegiance to any mob. He does this at the chagrin of his father, played by Brendan Gleeson, who is Deputy Police Superintendent.
Joe is forced to deal with both crime lords, when he falls for White’s girlfriend, Emma, played by Sienna Miller. Like the Man with No Name in Clint Eastwood’s A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS, Joe pits the mob bosses against one another, constantly attempting to retain his independence. The cat and mouse game augments when Joe goes to Florida to expand the bootlegging empire.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE LANCASTER BANK JOB
2. THE DISCUSSION WITH LORETTA AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE
3. THE TUNNEL ASSAULT
Ben Affleck is currently a tour de force in Tinseltown. He is flexing more celluloid muscle than any of his contemporaries. It would be wise not to bet against him. Leo DiCaprio didn’t. He produced LIVE BY NIGHT and stands to gain by riding the crest of Affleck’s current wave. Wearing more than one hat for a production is daunting; Affleck does three in LIVE BY NIGHT, and does each with aplomb.
LIVE BY NIGHT is probably the best ensemble cast film since SUICIDE SQUAD. Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Anthony Michael Hall, Zoe Saldana, Girone, and Glenister all waltz through the film in various lengths, performing their characters admirably.
Robert Richardson utilizes a combination of autumn colors and filters, even for scenes in Tampa, to give the film a period mien. His shots are compelling; even simple sequences like the motor boat ride on the inlets are notable. Couple the visuals with a captivating score by Harry Gregson-Williams (hyphenated, but still a dreaded three name soul), and LIVE BY NIGHT makes for a complete movie package.
Gangster movies are near and dear to my heart, as their themes constitute much of my youth. Many of the more recent flicks are very disappointing. With LIVE BY NIGHT. Affleck has returned royal status to the genre. This is one you don’t want to miss. I enjoyed it, and I think you will, too.
THE GRADE FOR LIVE BY NIGHT = A