LIVE BY NIGHT — Review by Susan Granger

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As a director – with Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo to his credit – Ben Affleck is besotted by atmospheric authenticity, particularly in his hometown of Boston. After fighting the Huns in Francer in W.W.I, disillusioned Joe Coughlin (Affleck) returns home to Prohibition-era Boston, vowing never to take orders from anyone again. Resisting all authority, he becomes a thief and an outlaw. Read on…

Unfortunately, he falls in love with Emma (Sienna Miller), the sassy, selfish mistress of Irish gangster Albert White (Robert Glenister).

Badly beaten and believing that Emma is dead, Joe allies himself with Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), boss of the rival Italian Mafia, much to the chagrin of his law-abiding dad (Brendan Gleeson), a bigwig with the Boston police, who warns, “What you put out into the world will always come back to haunt you, but never how you predict.”

When Pescatore sends him to Tampa to run Florida’s rum-smuggling racket, Joe marries sultry Graciela Suarez (Zoe Saldana), a black Cuban emigre, making him a target of the Ku Klux Klan leader (Matthew Maher), brother-in-law of the pious, pragmatic sheriff (Chris Cooper).

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s aspiring starlet daughter (Elle Fanning) takes off for an ill-fated trip to Hollywood, eventually becoming a Bible-thumping evangelist who opposes Joe’s plans to open a casino.

Adapting Dennis Lehane’s pulpy 2012 crime novel, Affleck drowns in melodramatic subplots and extraneous characters, consistently choosing clichéd style-over-substance.

Sumptuously photographed by Robert Richardson, it’s dazzling at times – yet self-defeating. Like when Joe emerges from a particularly brutal bloodbath without a spot on his cream-colored linen suit and matching fedora.

Jess Conchor’s detailed production design and Jacqueline West’s glamorous costumes are often more riveting than the chaotic action.

In addition, Affleck’s not adept at casting. As the romanticized gangster anti-hero, he’s torn between decency and deception – and that contradictory uncertainty dilutes his already-stiff, stone-faced performance.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Live By Night” is a fumbling, unfocused 4. It’s fatally flawed.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.