First look: Live By Night (no spoilers)

EDGAR saw a preview of Ben Affleck’s new gangster movie. Here are five things you need to know.

Robert Chilton February 1, 2017

Ben Affleck is all over Live By Night. As well as directing it, he stars in it as hoodlum-with-a-heart Joe Coughlin, and wrote the screenplay.

The story is based on the book by popular writer Dennis Lehane, the man who penned Shutter Island, Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, which Affleck also directed in 2007 and starred his brother Casey. 

Irish actor Brendon Gleeson is only in the movie for the first 30 minutes but delivers a standout performance as the father of Affleck’s character. The charismatic, hulking Gleeson plays a grizzled Irish cop in Boston with a mesmerising stillness and calmness.

The movie has strong roles for three female actors. Zoe Saldana plays Affleck’s wife Graciela; Elle Fanning portrays the daughter of the Tampa police chief upon whom the plot hinges; and Sienna Miller does a pretty good Irish accent as Emma Gould, a shifty gangster’s moll with a killer wardrobe. 

The period detail of Prohibition America is fascinating. We begin in the gritty, damp streets of Boston, then fly south to the grand houses of Florida where Affleck’s Coughlin is running his illegal rum business. The movie features wonderful old cars in some thrilling chase scenes and the Tommy guns wielded by the gangsters look (and sound) great. 

But the costumes really set the screen alight. Wide Cuban collars, double-breasted suits and fedora hats scream 1920s America. Affleck said, "You feel so empowered in these Dick Tracy suits and the hats, and the whole sex appeal of it.”

Critics have been lukewarm about the movie but for sheer style, Live By Night is worth the price of a movie ticket. Affleck doesn’t hit the heights of his 2013 Oscar-winning movie Argo but the story rattles along like a gangster’s jalopy and the performances are solid.

Affleck this week announced he will not direct The Batman, after his efforts on last year’s Batman/Superman mash up were widely panned. Maybe Ben should spend some time in front of the camera for a while.