Once again awards season is rolling around, and a person named Affleck is reaping accolades. But this is 2016, the topsy-turviest year on recent record, so the Affleck who’ll likely score an Academy Award nod is not Ben Affleck but younger brother Casey. (Sexual harassment accusations notwithstanding, he is unreasonably good in “Manchester-by-the-Sea.”) The irony, of course, is that the older Affleck is also releasing a film this season: “Live by Night,” an adaptation of the 2012 eponymous Dennis Lehane novel. That Big Ben’s first directorial effort since 2012’s Oscar-winning “Argo” is receiving very little publicity is surprising – at least, unless you’ve seen it.
To be fair, this Prohibition-era drama is not exactly bad. Set in a crime underbelly of Massachusetts, it’s tried-and-true territory for the native Bostonian, who in 2007 adapted Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone and has set two other films in the region. But the whole endeavor feels disappointingly by the numbers, perhaps because Ben (Casey is not associated with the film) seems intent on creating an instant classic, a period picture with “Scarface” grit and golden Hollywood glamour, complete with speakeasies, flappers, and Tommy guns. The result feels more like a facsimile of a facsimile – blurry and haplessly un-emphatic. Continue Reading →