Death by Day
Ben Affleck has had to endure a truck load of bad-mouthing and shit talk throughout his career. Some of this is because it’s trendy to knock him and some is thanks to the emotional range of boiled cabbage shown in some of his films.
In the past few years he’s managed to claw back some kudos from his directorial efforts – particularly the spectacular Argo – and his role in Gone girl and the hero that BvS needed in a film that no-one deserved.
Affleck seems to have cashed in this wave of good sentiment to make a film full of failed promises, terrible costume design and once again: drab fucking acting.
The basic premise of this film is that WW1 vet Joe Coughlin (Affleck) returns home to a fledgling 1920’s Boston. He gets tied up in a life of petty crime and a relationship with a Boston mob boss’s bit of skirt. This forces him to relocate to Florida and start running the rum trade during prohibition.
The very fact that this film is set in Florida already sets it apart from any other gangster film and if you needed any further proof then you only need look as far as Coughlin’s character who is not interested in running drugs or whore houses. This isn’t your typical gangsters drunk on power storyline.
The problem is that the film is now trying to make you care about cops and robbers, lost love, new love interests, revenge plots and prohibition so why it feels the need to weave in even more plot threads such as racism, the KKK and religion is confusing at best.
These are all fantastic topics that are ripe to be explored in more depth but with so much going on Live by Night never stood a chance to get emotionally invested in any of these.
What a shame. All the ingredients are there for a great film but it’s been thrown together with the care of a dog wielding a paintball gun.
That said, the production design is fantastic and really should be at least nominated for an Oscar in this area ahead of Passengers or even, dare I say it, La La Land because it really does look great.
The same can’t be said for the costume design. Go watch Gangster squad. That film had some seriously sharp suits. Affleck on the other hand seems to have been dressed in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hand me downs.
I mean, it’s hard to make suits look bad but it’s even harder to make it look like the main actor has been replaced with a Madame Tussaud wax work but Affleck manages to do just that. The few moments that Affleck gives us a smile looks like an android learning to smirk.
It’s Dion (Chris Messina), Coughlin’s right hand man, who provides the only injection of exuberance but that rarely manages to counteract what seems to be a depiction of “what if: world’s least enigmatic snooker player, Stephen Hendry, became a Gangster?”.
Quite simply, Live by Night dies when scrutinised in the light of day.
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ Fantastic production design
+ Promises to go places
+ Chris Messina
– Failed to live up to it’s promises
– Ben Affleck’s acting
– Affleck’s suits!