starring Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Cooper
screenplay by Ben Affleck, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane
directed by Ben affleck
by Walter Chaw I like Ben Affleck. I like him better as a director than an actor, but I like him in both roles. Live by Night is his The Postman. I mean that with affection, and I suspect the film will likely gain some critical and cult momentum in a few years' time--but not too much, because Live by Night is not quite stupid enough, strange enough, rough-around-the-corners enough, to really latch onto. What it is, instead, is a throwback to the kinds of movies Taylor Hackford likes to make: glossy, edgeless, overheated prestige entertainments that are sometimes, as was the case with his Proof of Life, more interesting for the publicity drama they create than for the films themselves. If you doubt the Hackford-ness of it, consider the embarrassing amount of time Affleck devotes to "steamy" '80s-era sex scenes, which are made unbearable by the soulful softcore thrusting. For Live by Night, the external mess is the hubbub over whether or not Affleck will direct an anticipated standalone Batman movie to rescue DC and Warner Bros. from their own curious tone-deafness. The spectre of Batman tends to distract from whatever's going on in the film, especially as Affleck continues to evolve physically into a perfect cube. Since you're asking, Live by Night's earnest corniness does suggest that he is probably the right man to guide a rebooted Batman franchise.