By George M. Thomas
|Ben Affleck and Zoe Saldana in Live By |
As his subject matter as a director started in his hometown of Boston with THE TOWN and veered into history with ARGO, Affleck displayed natural skill as a director. He continues that with LIVE BY NIGHT, a cinematic trip that combines both - his love for Boston with a loving look back into history.
While Boston isn’t the complete focus, it plays a distinct role in who Doug MacRay (Affleck), the film’s morally fluid center, is even as he takes hold of a criminal enterprise in Prohibition-era Tampa, Fla.
LIVE BY NIGHT possesses a sense of style along with memorable characters and a captivating story. It’s an old fashioned morality tale trussed up with some modern trappings.
But at its heart is the story of MacRay, a young guy making the mistakes young guys make. He’s impetuous. He’s intelligent and he’s ambitious.
Some of those traits can prove a detriment as they cost Doug, the son of a cop (played with a subtle, stern charm by Brendan Gleeson) a stint in a Massachusetts prison. When he emerges, he’s looking for a way to get through the world and the son of Irish immigrants finds himself working for an Italian mobster, eventually turning his “holdings” there into a vast empire.
When you rule an empire, you tend to become a marked man. That’s no different for Doug even as he falls for and marries the most beautiful woman in town (Zoe Saldana) and seems to find happiness. Doug learns that power can be an intangible and fleeting thing.
In addition to Saldana, Affleck surrounds himself with a formidable cast, including the always rock steady Chris Cooper as the compromised local sheriff.
Is it a perfect film? Nope. And I’m sure its releasing studio harbored ambitions of awards gold, but that wasn’t meant to be. That, however, doesn’t mean that LIVE BY NIGHT isn’t worth the time. In fact, on a winter night around here it offers a nice little escape.
Movie: LIVE BY NIGHT
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: R for strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity.
Running time: 128 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-4 stars