It may only be January, but Ben Affleck’s Live By Night will be the biggest swing-and-a miss movie of 2017. The film was based off of Dennis LeHane’s award winning 2012 crime novel of the same name. Set in Boston and Tampa during the prohibition era, with well established stars such as Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, and Elle Fanning, and industry heavyweight Chris Cooper, this film could’ve easily been looking at several Academy nominations. But, while all of the components of a classic gangster movie are present in the film, the lack of historical accuracy, the unmemorable performances, and unnecessary and underdeveloped characters made me feel embarrassed for Affleck.
The movie sees Irish WWI veteran, Joseph Coughlin (played by Affleck) drift from one female love interest to another, while battling the Irish and Italian Mafias, and trying to get a casino built in Florida. The first love interest is the mistress of the boss of the Irish Mafia in Boston, Emma Gould (played by Miller). When the boss finds out about Coughlin and Gould’s secret relationship, Gould betrays Coughlin and sets him up to be killed by the Irish Mafia. When Coughlin ventures down to Tampa to do help run Italian Mafia boss Maso Pescatore’s rum empire, he meets Graciela Corrales, (played by Saldana) the sister of a prominent Cuban businessman. Coughlin ends up marrying Corrales, despite the fact that interracial marriage was not legalized in Florida until 40 years after the film takes place. Affleck’s acting abilities were at their weakest here, and were highlighted by his awful Boston accent. He seems more concerned with stroking his ego than actually producing quality entertainment.
After starring in some of this decade’s greatest (albeit not completely historically accurate) films such as Argo and Gone Girl, this film is an ugly stain of the fabric of his filmography. What makes it worse, is that Affleck was responsible for nearly every aspect of the film, since he wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film. Exterior scenes were even shot on his private property on Hampton Island. This film was his baby, and he was a horrible father.