Sympathy’s easy. You have sympathy for starving children swatting at flies on the late-night commercials. Sympathy is easy because it comes from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realizing you could be them, and that all that separates you is luck.
The person you love is rarely worthy of how big your love is. Because no one is worthy of that and maybe no one deserves the burden of it, either. You’ll be let down. You’ll be disappointed and have your trust broken and have a lot of real sucky days. You lose more than you win. You hate the person you love as much as you love him. But, sh*t, you roll up your sleeves and work - at everything -because that’s what growing older is.
The brain controls pain. It controls fear. Sleep. Empathy. Hunger. Everything we associate with the heart or the soul or the nervous system is actually controlled by the brain. Everything. What if you could control it?
LIVE BY NIGHT is a nice little throwback to the old-time gangster films from the 30′s/40′s and is something that ought to be welcomed next to the likes of Bogart and Cagney. It continues the solid effort that Ben Affleck has been known for as a writer/director and while the beginning of the film has it’s issues (we’ll get to them) I don’t understand all the negativity being thrown at it. It’s beautifully shot, action-packed and has some of the grandest production values/scope I’ve seen from any film recently.
As I said, the first part of the film has it’s issues mainly because it tries to do too much in what is essentially a prologue. It jumps around from point-to-point and just feels uneven/never really gets any solid footing (kind of like Rogue One last month). You see Affleck as a low-level gangster who works for this complete psycho (Robert Glenister who is off his rocker) while also being in love with his mistress (Sienna Miller because of course) and dealing with his cop of a father (Brendan Gleeson). You can tell that a lot of material was cut here due to how all over the place it is and because of it you never really get any character out of Gleeson and Miller (which is a shame). The way the film is constituted I’d rather have all this done in flashback form in spots throughout or just completely excise it entirely because it makes for some awkward storytelling.
After all of this though the film finds some solid ground and starts to become the film you’d want it to be. Affleck goes to Florida and starts to grow/shine as a mob boss/rum bootlegger and having issues with the KKK in that area. There’s a lot of great character work and themes of the disenfranchised/oppressors help give this film a nice little edge you don’t really see from these types of films.
The cast is great overall with Elle Fanning being the person who stands out the most. It’s an impressive character and allows for a lot of great (morally grey shaded) work between her and Affleck’s character. Chris Cooper is also wonderful as a Tampa cop who will “work with corruptible people but himself isn’t corruptible”. I also enjoyed Chris Messina playing the right-hand man and Zoe Salanda makes for a good love interest. Affleck knows how to direct/get the best work out of actors and he keeps proving it again here.
The action is great with several amazing car chases and a giant shootout/gun fight at the end that is all kinds of impressive. The score and cinematography are also gorgeous too and the costume design/sets from that era are simply to die for if you enjoy these types of films. Everything about the production of this film had me smitten throughout.
Overall I was entertained. I would’ve liked more out of it (a director’s cut with 30 minutes of more narrative would do this wonders) but even so this is a nice little gangster film that in no way deserves the bashing its receiving critically.