Review: Live By Night (15)

Ben Affleck's journey as a filmmaker has been intrinsically linked to Boston, where he grew up and caught the acting bug.

JOURNEYMAN: Ben Affleck as Joe Coughlin in Live By Night. PICTURE: PA Photo/Warner Bros.

His first screenplay, the Oscar-winning drama Good Will Hunting, co-written by best friend Matt Damon, was set in the densely populated south of the city. When he eventually strayed behind the camera, Affleck’s first two features were the gripping Gone Baby Gone based on the novel by Bostonian Dennis Lehane and the edge-of-seat thriller The Town about a group of bank robbers from the city’s Charlestown neighbourhood.

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So it comes as no surprise that his first directorial outing since he won the Oscar for Argo should be a stylish Prohibition-era crime saga set partly in Boston and adapted from another pulpy novel by Lehane.

Live By Night harks back to an impeccably tailored era of gangsters, molls and bullet-riddled massacres, when everyone has a dirty secret to hide. “Vice, it seemed, was Depression-proof,” observes Affleck’s lead character early on, setting the scene for two hours of alcohol-sodden and sex-fuelled excess. The body count in breathlessly staged shootouts is extremely high. Affleck’s script doesn’t glamorize violence, but it certainly lionizes his amoral lead character, who glides serenely from misfortune to full-blown disaster while those around him are riddled with bullets.

On general release