Monday, 16 January 2017


An apparently limitless trove of inspiration in over a century of cinema - may these time-tested classics continue to educate and enthuse the filmmakers of today. And may those same filmmakers please leave their inspiration as inspiration alone? Live by Night is a vapid, tedious slog through the sorely limited imagination of one of the most dependable filmmakers of today, whose reliability matches that of his most enduring peers, past and present. Ben Affleck might never helm a masterpiece, never produce a classic akin to those to which Live by Night is a dreary homage, but he'll surely never helm a genuine dud either. That dependability allows even this, his first folly as director, to be a pleasurable experience in bits and pieces, fits and starts. To cop a sight of Affleck's fearsomely geometric figure, you'd know that he's a smarter director of action than of emotion, that his grasp of space, geography and aesthetic is considerably more assured than his grasp of the people therein. He's no stylist, though, and his intention of producing a tribute to old-school gangster noir whilst contributing to the genre anew is skewed so heavily in favour of convention over innovation that the end product feels like a hollow template, wholly uninspirational in itself. Forgetting its numerous, draining scenes of forced feeling - as you'll wish you could - Live by Night is a soulless, impersonal film, a valiant but misguided effort and a fine undertaking - check out that production value! - but to largely fruitless ends. Its debt to the mini-mythology of its genre, which it pays in attempting to recreate, is listlessly embodied in sequences whose drab character and tone have a stultifying effect on a film that feels more like a silly superhero origin story at times than a modern gangster movie touchstone.