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Live By Night

A rather dull foray into the gangster days of the Florida Gulf Coast during Prohibition

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Ben Affleck stars as a gangster in this crime drama, adapted from a Dennis Lehane novel, set during Prohibition. Affleck, who also directed, portrays Joe Coughlin, an Irish kid from Boston who, during the World War, “left a soldier, came back an outlaw.” After some trouble in Beantown, Coughlin winds up in Ybor City (described here as “the Harlem of Tampa”), where he sets up a number of lucrative booze-running deals for the Italian mob back in Boston.

You know the drill: Things go good, then they go bad, a lot of people get shot, and somebody turns into a tent preacher. OK, that last plot point is unusual, and while interesting, it was a moody bit of side business that felt out of step with the rote pulp-fiction aspect of the whole. Live By Night’s primary takeaway is how dull it is; there are a lot of players and set-up, and what action does transpire is wholly expected. It’s an ensemble piece — that also just happens to feature the uninspiring Affleck in every scene — with plenty of good actors wasted along the way. I’d give this bootleg hooch a pass, and wait for the real deal to roll back around.

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