Every director, producer and actor has a passion project that they are desperate not just to make, but succeed in. For Ben Affleck, that was his drama Live by Night. A title set in the prohibition era of the 1920s that contains strong gangster overtones and to make the stakes higher. Affleck maintained all three major roles both in front and behind the camera.
With the help of Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Brothers, the 44-year old managed to get the picture made and released in December 2016. Adapted from the 2012 novel, the dream production has turned into a nightmare for all involved as the studio is facing a loss of $75m. A hit to the pocket of epic proportions.
Ben's Blunder Is A Major Setback
Period dramas are notoriously difficult to crack in international markets, making the task of recouping the money incredibly tough to achieve following poor results domestically. The cast supports Affleck well with names including Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, and Chris Cooper. Yet the appetite from the audience is simply not there to justify the production.
The global figure to date is a poultry $16.5m, coming in the wake of initial $65m in costs prior to tens of millions being added in additional market distribution. Although the failure is a black mark on Affleck's affiliation with the studio, he had goodwill with the people at Warner Brothers after the success of The Town and Argo. Bringing commercial and critical acclaim on both counts.
Too Formulaic and Jolly To Be True To The Era: Critics
Wendy Ide of The Guardian could only muster 2/5 stars for the Affleck picture, arguing that the film reverts to lazy stereotypes regardless of some terrific performances by the rest of the cast.
"Affleck stars in the film as well as writes and directs," concludes Ide. "His performance, as Irish outlaw-turned-gangster Joe Coughlin is solid enough, but the standout turns are in cameo supporting roles. Brendan Gleeson, playing Joe’s police chief father, is tremendous in a few early scenes. Also impressive is Sienna Miller as chippy Irish moll Emma Gould, Joe’s near-fatal weakness. But the sparks of life that come with these scenes are soon lost in a bloated, overstuffed picture that relies too heavily on genre cliches."
Dan Jolin from Empire agrees wholeheartedly, also giving the flick 2/5 stars. What stood out for Jolin was the manner in which Affleck's character took to the dark side for personal gain, only to remain a gangster after accomplishing his initial goal.
"If a thirst for revenge drove this former small-time crook to join up with the violent mobsters he once derided, then Affleck’s script never quite makes sense of Joe’s decision to stick with this life once his retributive passion has apparently subsided," he remarked. "Which sadly makes this a thoroughly disappointing follow-up to the crackingly scripted oscar high of Argo."