(director/writer: Ben Affleck; screenwriter: based on the novel by Dennis Lehane; cinematographer: Robert Richardson; editor: William Goldenberg; music: Harry Gregson-Williams; cast: Ben Affleck (Joe Coughlin), Zoë Saldana (Graciela), Chris Messina (Dion Bartolo), Elle Fanning (Loretta Figgis), Matthew Maher (RD Pruitt), Brendan Gleeson (Thomas Coughlin), Sienna Miller (Emma Gould), Chris Cooper (Chief Figgis), Anthony Michael Hall (Gary L. Smith), Robert Glenister (Albert White), Remo Girone (Maso Pescatore), Miguel J. Pimentel (Suarez), Max Casella (Digger); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson, Jennifer Todd; Warner Bros; 2016)
An unfocused but stylish old-fashioned Warner brothers gangster film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An unfocused but stylish old-fashioned Warner brothers gangster film that’s set in the 1920s and 1930s, that features men in fedoras, Model T’s and blazing Tommy guns. Ben Affleck (“The Town”/”Argo”) directs, writes, produces and stars in a film where he hogs the whole show but has no chops for the part Cagney would have ate up back in the day. It’s based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, and is the third time Affleck used one of his books when directing. Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck), the son of a Boston police captain (Brendan Gleeson), is a disillusioned World War I veteran who’s back in Boston after the war. He cynically tells us the war made him an expert in guns and that “I went away a soldier, I came home an outlaw.” After ten years as a small-time armed heist man and a bitter disappointment to his dad, Joe gets involved with the ruthless Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister) and falls madly in love with his mistress Emma (Sienna Miller). To get enough money to split town with Emma and avoid being killed by the jealous mobster, Joe robs a bank. It’s a botched job whereby three cops are killed, but through his dad’s pull he only gets three years in the slammer. Before the Irish mobster can knock off Joe, he goes over to Albert’s Italian rival, Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone), and is sent during Prohibition to Tampa to go into the rum business for the mob with the Cuban bootlegger Suarez (Miguel J. Pimentel) in control of the shipping routes. The only problem is that the Cuban is in business with Albert White. In Tampa, Joe reunites with his Boston main-man Dion (Chris Messina) and runs Albert out of the Tampa rum trade. He then begins a hot romance with Suarez’s dark skinned sister Graciela (Zoë Saldana), and makes deals with the corrupt God-fearing Tampa sheriff (Chris Cooper). He also deals with the sheriff’s hateful KKK brother-in-law (Matthew Maher) and the KKK bandits who are robbing his drinking establishments. There’s also a problem with the sheriff’s wayward druggie daughter (Elle Fanning), who has reformed and turned into a Bible-thumping preacher against gambling. By the time we reach the last act, Joe has switched from the rum trade to the casino business and the crazed Italian mob boss decides he no longer needs Joe to run the Florida operation for the mob. The messy story of the Irish Prohibition-era mobster in Tampa is crude, banal and not involving. The half-baked story chronicling this anti-hero’s life and telling us he’s better than the other mobsters he’s connected with because he’s soft and capable of love, is laughable and disingenuous.

Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, and Elle Fanning in Live by Night (2016)