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7 Pieces Of: “Live By Night”

Live By Night Trailer

Nutshell: Gorgeous visuals.  Great cast.  Intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying story.  Affleck tries his best to write, direct, and star in a modern Film Noir, but the only thing on screen is the tantalizing hints of what this film could have been. Grade: C+

“No winner. Just a lotta mess.”

Story: During American Prohibition, a low-level Irish born thief named Joe (Affleck) decides to throw in with the Italian Mob and run their dealings in Florida.  There’s lots of money to be made, but things get tricky when Joe tries to shift from rum-running to casinos.

Genre I’d put it in: Wannabe 70s Noir

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Orignal: Based on the Edgar award winning novel by Dennis Lehane.

Gotta say: I hadn’t heard much about this film before I got the screening invite.  But with a 2016 official release date, it looks like it’s trying to jockey for position in the Oscar race.  Aside from its visually stunning cinematography, it needn’t have bothered.  Zoe Saldana, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Chris Messina and Affleck bring their A game to this film, but they can’t save a messy plot that comes together too late, and ends with a cliche gangster shootout.

Not to say that it isn’t a fun film, if you’re into shoot-’em-ups and bits of untold history (Note: I am.)  Affleck takes Lehane’s novel and mines it for tantalizing bits of history, like the Cuba-rum connection in Miami, and how organized crime set up liquor running “businesses” in and around the area of Ybor City, Florida.  There’s also scenes where the Cubans are harassed by the Klu Klux Klan, as well as how the temperance movement and revival preachers resisted gambling casinos in Florida.  All of those tidbits would have made for a more interesting, emotional story.  But instead Affleck focuses on the bang-bang, which is entertaining but not particularly satisfying.

Cubans.  Rum.  Gangsters. Molls.  The Mob.  All thrown together in a fun but lightweight story.  After films like Argo, The Town, and Gone Baby Gone, I was hoping for something deeper from Affleck.

#Protip: If, like me, you become interested in the history of Miami in the 1920s and 30s, check these out .

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Denise Kitashima Dutton
Denise has been covering books, movies and music since 2003. She's hoping she'll get the hang of it any day now.