Film Review: LIVE BY NIGHT (USA 2016)

live_by_night_movie_poster.jpgDirected by Ben Affleck

Starring: Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper

Review by Gilbert Seah

Ben Afflecks’s fourth film (after ARGO, THE TOWN and GONE BABY GONE) is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane which like BURN,BABY, BURN is a novel that contains a lot of plot. But LIVE BY NIGHT contains too much plot dealing with as many issues as there are plot turns. Unfortunately, Affleck’s script is unable to cope and the film fails despite worthy efforts.

Set in the 1920s and 1930s, the story follows Joe Coughlin (Affleck), the prodigal son of a Boston police captain (Brendan Gleeson). Joe is a World War I veteran of Irish decent who is in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), mistress of the notorious gangster Albert White (Robert Glenister), the boss of the Irish Gang of Boston. Joe’s father disapproves of Emma. Joe and Emma decide to move to California escaping the wrath of White, but to their misfortune the head of Albert’s rival Italian Mafia Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) finds out about their affair and blackmails Joe to kill Albert. The story goes on, leading Joe to finally work for Maso and rising in the ranks. Success comes with a price with a lot of casualties in the process.

The best thing about LIVE BY NIGHT are its impeccable performances. Gleeson at his growling best, plays Joe’s chief of police, who unfortunately dies 20 minutes into the film. The gap, fortunately is filled by Chris Cooper as Irving Figgis, another chief of police, who is as pious as he is crazy. The other supporting cast members are uniformly good from Matthew Maher (as a creepy Ku Klax Klan member) and Anthony Michael Hall as an overconfident lackey for a crime boss.

Affleck’s script is all over the place and tries to handles too many issues like father/son relationship; romance; crime; good vs. evil; racism and loss of innocence just to name a few. The dialogue also includes a fair amount of ‘f’ words including the ‘mother f” words that are out of place in a film set in the roaring twenties.

The handsome mounted production from the vintage cars (in the robbery car chase) to the wardrobe, music and props make the film a memorable period piece. Affleck dresses himself very sharply, always in pressed white suits and hat.

As the story deals with war between crime families, LIVE BY NIGHT will inevitably be compared to Francis Ford Coppola’s GODFATHER films. Joe keeps his criminal activities from his wife, Gracilea (Zoe Saldana) reminiscent of how Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) hid his crime duties from his wife played by Diane Keaton. This is when one can detect the inferiority of of LIVE BY NIGHT. The power and bite are just not there.
LIVE BY NIGHT is well paced with a good speed in the first third of the film. The varying pace from the highly edited car chase to the slow paced meeting a a tea shop between Joe and Loretta Figgis (Elle Fannng)
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The film also contains dialogue with heavy Irish accent (from Gleesona nd Miller) which is occasionally hard to understand.

The film could have done with some script doctoring. Affleck taking the co-producing, writing, directing and lead acting duties has obviously got his plate full in this $65 million production.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtFZcAuH-qI

 

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ASSASSIN’S CREED (2016) Michael Fassbender. Marion Cotillard.

assassins_creed_movie_poster.jpgDirector: Justin Kurzel
Writers: Michael Lesslie (screenplay), Adam Cooper (screenplay)
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Assassin’s Creed is an action-adventure video-game series created by Ubisoft that consists of nine main games and a number of supporting materials. The games have appeared on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and many other platforms. The games are set in a fictional history of real-world events and follows the centuries-old struggle between the Assassins, who fight for peace with free will, and the Templars, who desire peace through control. From the game came the book series and it is inevitable that a film follows. Very bad idea! For a game about peace, the film is quite violent. Even with Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender starring and producing it, ASSASSIN’S CREED for all its $125 million production cost and star power like Marion Cotillard (barely recognizable), Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling, the film comes out incredibly dull. For one, moviegoers know the famous adage: “It is hard to get excited over a movie made from a video game.” Yes, no matter how much the filmmakers try.

Cal Lynch (Fassbender) is about to be executed as his capital punishment. But he ends up travelling back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant ancestor who is also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present. There are lots of fighting with Fassbender shirtless showing off his super-toned body.

That is about it for story and plot. The visuals are mainly done though Computer Graphics with the film looking much like a video game with computer generated figures fighting or shown in large crowds. The visuals are nothing out of the ordinary. There are lots of action scenes with characters running about on rooftops, firing arrows or jumping around. These hardly generate any excitement.

The key prize that the Templars and Creed both seek is the apple, supposedly the one from the Garden of Eden that Eve ate, and so released the knowledge of Good and Evil. The audience is supposed to believe that the non-rotting apple has survived through the years and that anyone who possesses it can control man’s free will. So, the Templars wish to control humanity by owning the apple.

The film is directed by Australian Justin Kurzel who directed Fassbender in last year’s MACBETH. He did a good job, rising to fame with SNOWTOWN, but none of his talent is observable in this poor effort.

So during the Christmas season, it is a hard toss which is the worst film of the season or for the year for that matter. The three contenders are PASSENGERS, COLLATERAL BEAUTY and this one!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfJVoF5ko1Y

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Happy Birthday Today: Brendan Gleeson

brendangleeson.jpgHappy Birthday actor Brendan Gleeson

Born: March 29, 1955 in Dublin, Ireland

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