Monday, 16 January 2017
REVIEW: LIVE BY NIGHT
The Old Town.
126 Minutes. Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Clark Gregg, Miguel & Brendan Gleeson. Director: Ben Affleck.
Dark nights have haunted actor/director Ben Affleck of late. Whether in the form of the cowl of Gotham's knight or the scowl of critics ink. After the 'Argo', 'The Town' and 'Gone Baby Gone' triple-threat, Academy Award winning director passed up on the chance to direct the 'Man Of Steel' reboot, the man who once played George Reeves' 'Superman' in 'Hollywoodland' was knighted as Bruce Wayne for the 'Dawn Of Justice' of 'Batman v Superman' last year. But in the 'Civil War' era of everyone marvelling over the red, white and blue, all america hero vs the billionaire playboy suit of Captain America vs Iron Man, fanboys and girls pulled no punches in their weigh ins on 'BvS'. Yet despite the hate the prelude to this years 'Justice League' assemble was actually great. And despite his hero being treated like his 'Daredevil' disaster, Batfleck nailed the brooding and bulging Wayne and Dark Knight dynamic like a Keaton or Bale. Now we can't wait for 'The Batman'. His own directed and acted solo movie. But between script perfectionism and studio problems we don't know when we'll see a Dark Knight again. Especially when Ben is busy acting, directing, writing and even producing 'Live By Night' right through from dusk till dawn. As the hardest hustler in Hollywood like those 'Public Enemies' and 'Lawless' folk profits off the prohibition era for big suits and even taller Dick Tracy peaks.
Behind executive decision production power from 'The Revenant' Oscar winning 'Best Actor' Leonardo DiCaprio (who starred in the adaptation of LeHane's sensational 'Shutter Island'), Ben goes for gold all whilst blazing through legendary author of 'Mystic River', 'The Drop' and Affleck's previous adaptation 'Gone Baby Gone' Dennis LeHane's brilliant book at a blazing Tommy-Gun rat-at-tat pace. This week going to battle with his own brother who he starred in 'Gone', as Casey Affleck looks to take 'Manchester By The Sea' all the way to the Kodak Theatre on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame this February. But hometown boy Ben's Boston by the booze looks to have its toast too as he slices the top off a champagne bottle. Cheers! Raise them up for the amazing Affleck. Who raises the roof and his own bar applying himself more than anybody here. 'The Accountant' actioneer that banks on doing it all even offers his two cents to the problems of the past that still remain prevelant and presidential today, not passively, but damn sure aggressively. Articulating his applied script to some accented acting, the man who is as much a LeHane friend and fanboy as he is to fellow New England God Tom Brady, gives us a powerful, production with the Dennis and DiCaprio powerhouse. And one of the Academys leading directors keeps that dynamic with all his parlour tricks and subtle but serious, Clint Eastwood megastar to camera man like directing. So much so that scenes with Clint's son, new hot thing in Hollywood; Scott Eastwood (who was set to play Ben's on-screen Casey as an up and coming movie writer) were left on the cutting room floor. Because in this game sometimes someones got to go. And as Affleck unloads and offs them all at the end of this epic we are reminded whether old 'Town' or new, ever since the 'Heat' of Michael Mann no one does gunfights (or for that matter wagon chases 'till the wheels fall off) quite like this dog having his day.
Still there's plenty of players in this survival of the fittest, signs of the roaring twenties times, where behind ever Gatsby like party there were some real rum characters. At the soul of this picture Affleck's regular Joe's heart is strung between two femme fatales. A sizzling Sienna Miller of 'Burnt', 'American Sniper', Bradley Cooper doubles and 'High Rise' recent levels of forms is brilliant as a Boston broad with as much balche as art deco party and pearl bravado. Whilst 'Avatar', 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and 'Star Trek' sci-fi queen Zoe Saldana is sensational as a Cuban beauty that shows she belongs in a bygone 'La La Land' era of Hollywoodland starlets. Just like the side of Dakota there's enough room here for another as 'Neon Demon' shining star Elle Fanning is fantastic as a strung out actress turned powerful preacher, in a town and trade that can't seem to get off the bottle or table without some good words from the vein of truth. 'The Town' locked down dad of Affleck; Chris Cooper plays her pops and the local sherriff that is happy to let Ben go by and by unless things get real personal. Cooper hasn't been this significant in such spare change time since he was an 'American Beauty'. Makes you think about the potential power of his Norman Osborner character if he didn't just end up as a frozen head on the shelf in the freezer of the done 'The Amazing Spider-Man' series. One good Chris from Affleck's academy of films deserves another as Chris Messina from 'Argo' almost unrecognisably steals the show as the gangster messiah of this peace that is saved by his lack of grace. But he's more than the trigger right hand man here. He's the ammunition that makes this one shoot straight for the blockbuster bullseye as he tells everyone but Affleck to do the same as that cult catchpharse from the last movie. Except for Eastwood (sorry Scott your tine is coming and we can't wait to see the scenes) everyone gets their cut. Even a bespectacled and trimmed 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' director Clark Gregg and an impressively inspired rhythm and blues singer Miguel. But it's the whiskey business of Irish cop father Brendan Gleeson that really brings everything to the boil. All men are a reflection of their fathers and if Affleck's big picture mirrors its maker then it's 'In Bruges' great Gleenson's scuffed shine that polishes the proceedings albeit with a little tobacco spit. All in all this epic ensemble makes 'Live By Night' see the fight of a new day. But in this live and die American dream it's one man that pays the highest price. And when it comes to on-screen or behind it you can always count of Ben's production no matter what they write. Now let's live to see a dark knight. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'The Town', 'Public Enemies', 'Gangster Squad'.