Everyone once in awhile there comes a gangster film that surprises audiences because of the content it presents to us. Live By Night is one of those classic gangster films that is able to reflect our society and still pay homage to the noir crime classics of the 30s. Ben Affleck’s directorial vision is beautifully captured in this film and he does a great job pulling tropes and stylistic elements from various films within both genres. What I loved about Live By Night was how he integrated the gangster and crime noir elements to create a fresh neo-noir picture that Warner Brothers could get behind, considering they used to be the main production company from the studio system who would fund these gangster films. It felt like a gangster movie and if it felt like one to me, then it becomes a great one to remember in my books.
The first half was a bit rushed, the pacing was off but he found the pacing near the middle and that’s where it really took off. The historical accuracy and the production design with the help of the very talented Robert Richardson made it feel like an instant classic in my eyes. I feel like people tend to forget that this is also a crime noir as it was adapted quite nicely from the novel of the same title written by Dennis LeHane. It was a slow burn that introduced many different people in the span of two hours. I thought that the cast of characters really worked well together and they all shined in their own way. Chris Messina was an instant standout as Dion and his chemistry with Ben was great. The ladies of Live By Night were also fantastic, Sienna Miller was captivating, Zoe Saldana was regal and Elle Fanning was vivacious.
Ben Affleck did a wonderful job directing I loved the decisions he made and you could tell that he had fun bringing this film to the screen and paying homage to this style of filmmaking while still making it his own. I thought he suited Joe Coughlin as well, he wrote him in a way that gangsters are not usually shown. He was a more reserved gangster in contrast to Dion who would have popped anyone. He was softer around the edges and had a heart, he had a soul and his decisions not only affected those around him but he had to deal with his own struggles of actually living this life.
Gavin O’Connor delivers a fresh and tight action thriller with a vulnerable and sensitive storyline that is original and unique. The Accountant is a film strongly rooted in familial dysfunction and childhood trauma that was executed quite bluntly. Autism is a very difficult subject to put on screen because of the representation and O’Connor did so tastefully, you could tell that they cared about telling Christian Wolff’s story and they didn’t tread lightly either. It is a very decent action thriller. O’Connor used very similar tropes but somehow added some originality to it and in this case underlining the typical action film with a mental illness.
The film itself may seem dry and bleak but we are fully immersed in Christian Wolff’s world. Ben Affleck is fantastic in this role and he captivates you within the first minute of meeting him. He carried the tone of Wolff extremely well throughout and didn’t falter once. He was calm, vulnerable and sarcastic yet powerful causing audiences to assess Wolff and piece him together. It is one of the most interesting characters Ben has portrayed and it was perfect for him. There was so much depth to his character and it’s because O’Connor expertly integrated flashbacks that linked his backstory. The children in the film all did a wonderful job with their characters and it did pull on your heartstrings, some moments were difficult to watch.
The film was executed in a way that the audience would be piecing together Wolff’s mind rather than wasting their time on the plot which was being spelled out by the FBI agents. It was a unique balance and I think that is what made it so interesting. The beginning dragged on a bit, I have to admit it could have been cut down but when the action sequences came up I was giddy. The techniques used were very different, the combat with martial arts allowed a different dimension to what action films could be like. O’Connor does a great job with filming the choreography as neatly as he could. Every single move was beautifully captured. I wanted more. I did, I wanted more fight scenes because of how amazing they were. They played off the subtle movements and they made an impact.
Ben Affleck was the driving force of this film and he lead a pretty damn powerful cast. He had a playful chemistry with Anna Kendrick, which I loved. J. K Simmons is always on point, Jon Bernthal was really good as well. Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow had small parts but they are obviously great. However, the secondary character that truly shined was Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Agent Medina. She, herself had her own backstory but her determination was great to see and it was wonderful to see a woman with that kind of power.
All in all, it is a great action thriller, filled with great action sequences, dry sarcasm and a couple of sweet plot twists. This is probably one of my favourite characters Ben Affleck has ever done and I’m very happy he took this on. Gavin O’Connor has so many wonderful ideas and I’m very excited to see what he does in the future.
Okay. I have read so many reviews completely trashing this film and I have no idea what movie some people are watching?
I understand where the critics are coming from but it really isn’t that bad. Zack Snyder did a wonderful job with reinventing Bruce Wayne and Batman, Ben Affleck is the BEST Batman that we have ever gotten and he is the Batman fans deserve. Zack Snyder does such an incredible job with creating this huge universe in such a unique way. I will admit that the first half of this film was extremely long and could have been cut down because all it was, was setting up the characters and the second half of the film. It was slow, the pacing was off at first. Snyder showed us the same story that we’ve seen but from Bruce’s perspective, which I quite enjoyed. Snyder gave us the Batman origins story in a really wicked way, it showed the power of Bruce and where his strength originates from and resonates within him. They wrote Bruce Wayne in the best way possible and I thank Terrio and Goyer for giving us Batman in all his glory.
The whole film is character driven, the plot really doesn’t even matter and to be perfectly honest I didn’t even focus on the plot but I focused on the characters and the character interactions because that is why this movie was made. This was fan service in the best possible form, Snyder focused on bringing the best comic book adaptation that he could and he did, he did deliver. The second half of the film is what dreams were made of, seeing them battle, seeing the three of them standing together against Doomsday was overwhelming. Snyder made a huge movie, it’s big and explosive and brings us into the world of Gotham and Metropolis quite seamlessly.
As for the other characters in the film, Gal Godot was fierce, regal and powerful as Diana Prince with the very little screen time she had, she developed a strong subtle presence that was needed for her character. The second Wonder Woman appeared, she really did own the screen and overpowered the rest of them. Jesse Eisenberg brought us a different Lex Luthor, he wasn’t intimidating but he was creepy, psychotic and a complete lunatic who was a ticking time bomb. He was quick witted and sharp, you hung on his every word. Amy Adams was pretty kick ass in this as well, I really enjoyed her progression as Lois Lane, she had much more to do in this film and was essential to the plot of the film. They also managed to integrate the cameos in the most subtle but effective way. I really enjoyed how Snyder managed to set up the Justice League he did a really good job with that.
The one problem I did have with this film was that the writing for Clark Kent was non existent. Henry Cavill was so restricted in his actions and his story that he was underwhelming. I wanted him to do so much more in this one but he took a backseat to Bruce Wayne and Batman. This wasn’t a Superman movie at all, it should have been considered a solo Batman film because Superman was the secondary character in his own film. I know it says Batman v Superman but Bruce Wayne overpowered everyone (which I’m also not complaining because Ben was incredible) I just really wanted Clark to have some sort of character development but he was just there, he was just Superman and he didn’t progress.
In conclusion, the first half of this film is really slow and really long and should have been edited. The second half was amazing and the pros outweigh the cons. Once the fighting kicks in and they all band together, it is a dream come true and comic book fans will be so happy with this. If we could erase the first half and just remember the glorious second half then it’s the movie that we have been waiting for. It is not as bad as critics are making it out to be, I found it rather enjoyable because we finally have an incredible Bruce Wayne who was the driving force of this film and we finally have a gritty Batman who is ruthless and actually has incredible fight scenes. Zack Snyder brought us the best possible comic book adaptation, he couldn’t have done it any other way.