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Saturday, July 1, 2017

LIVE BY NIGHT (2016)

The poster tips Ben Affleck’s hand: a $110 mill vanity project as writer/star/producer, catching a ride on the Hubris Express in a suit that, like the film, is a couple of sizes too large for him in this dud Roaring ‘Twenties saga. He even looks odd, as if he dunked his face in cold water to firm it up before every shot, and bulked up (for an upcoming SuperHero role?), yet looking like a waxwork Gene Kelly.

There’s also a perfectly lousy story, from the Dennis Lehane novel, about prohibition turf wars in Boston (Irish vs Italian) with Affleck’s WWI vet turned unaligned/principled indie stick-up guy losing it all before getting a shot to run the rum business in Florida for one of the families. Beating off adversaries right & left (rival gangs, KKK, Christian Revival movement fanatics), a couple of set pieces have a handsome glow, if little excitement or logistical grounding. But it hardly matters when only Brendan Gleeson playing Copster Dad (gone after the prologue) passes ‘The Fedora Test.’ You know, the one that asks younger actors, ‘Do I look like an asshole in a period hat?’ Oh, yes, Ben, yes, yes, yes.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Heck, choose just about any Warners gangster pic from the ‘30s, preferably with James Cagney. Early rough & ready like THE PUBLIC ENEMY/’31; or polished and slightly pre-digested like THE ROARING TWENTIES/’39.

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