This Week's Review: Live by Night

The only film I have seen in the last two weeks is Live by Night.I have read some of Dennis Lehane’s other novels about Florida, but I am not familiar with this one.  It is obviously a labor of love for Ben Affleck who produced, wrote, and starred in it, but it comes up short.

Affleck was much better in Argoand The Accountant.  He often seems detached from his character, a self-deluded World War I veteran who considers himself a rebel but not a gangster when, in fact, he is as vicious a gangster as Michael Corleone ever hoped to be.  Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, and Brendan Gleeson were the only other cast members whom I recognized; Cooper is very good as a hypocritical chief of police who winks at crime and pays a ghastly price for his sins.

The story is set in Ybor City, Florida, in the late 1920s and early ’30s; Ybor City could as easily be a frontier settlement in the old west, but sets and costumes seem accurate.  Even so, this is a gangster movie and shows influences from other gangster films, particularly Godfather II, Once upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, The Road to Perdition, and even Elmer Gantry .  There is not very much blood, but the violence is incredibly vicious, as is much of the language; some of the worst language is racist, but it would have been typical in the 1920s.

I can only recommend this for enthusiasts of gangster films.