Reaction to Ben Affleck's 'Live By Night' seems to be mixed


There is a conspicuous embargo for Ben Affleck's "Live By Night" that won't be lifted until Dcember 21st, just 4 days before the films rolls into theaters. The film seems to be an old-school highly stylized gangster picture that will likely not be in the running for Best Picture, but might have a small, but pronounced following. It will also possibly try to sneak into the tech categories come Oscar night, but that might also be a long shot according to some sources. At least that's hat I've gathered from talking to people that attended last night's world premiere in Los Angeles, a screening that was mostly attended by pundits and Awards voters.

Even Ben Affleck had to lower expectations at the screening, saying that this ain't "Best Picture" material, it's more a way to delve into a genre he always wanted to tackle.

“This wasn’t a movie where I said, ‘Come on, we’re gonna win Best Picture,’” Affleck says. “This was a crowd-pleasing, genre movie. I wanted to do something really different from ‘Argo.’ I had planned this even before ‘Argo’ came out, but I wanted to challenge myself and this was really more deliberate and more classic where everything was determined and I knew where everything was going to be in each shot. I challenged myself that way and having Bob Richardson made it infinitely easier.”

Variety's Kris Tapley on the other hand has these safe, but cautious words to say about the film:

“It makes sense that Warner Bros. is leading the conversation on Live By Night with crafts,” Tapley wrote, “because all of those bits and pieces — as well as the sound design — are what could register in the upcoming awards race.”

An insider very much in the industry emailed me with this: "Hard to tell how it's going to fare, Jordan. (Off the record, just on background) I only spoke to a couple of LA Times colleagues after the screening. Of the three of us, two disliked it, one was mixed. WB and Affleck are doing their best to tamp down expectations. Affleck says he was going for a crowd-pleaser. I have a feeling it's not going to be a critics-pleaser ... let's just say that."

On 9.26.16 I had this to say:

"I know, I know. Ever since I have been doing this site I have pretty much been underwhelmed by what Affleck has done as a director. Not a fan of "Gone Baby Gone" and "Argo" I find those films not that visually exciting and Affleck almost parodying some of his influences. I will say that "The Town" features some great action, those heist sequences play like gangbusters, but at the end of the day he was influenced by Michael Mann's "Heat" and Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" with those and it really isn't his own voice."

"Now it seems like he's gone the gangster route and, although this could turn out to be a pleasant surprise, the visual style is again a rehash of much of what we've seen in the past. I know someone that went to a test screening and came out underwhelmed by the film. Right now it is expected to com out late December, but this looks like the kind of film that would fit better with a spring 2017 release. "Gangster Squad" anyone?"

I have a particular interest in watching "Live By Night" for Robert Richardson, a cinematographer I have long admired that has a chance to really just let 'er rip with his photography here. Gangster pictures tend to be heavenly territory for cinematographers, especially if it's from a certain time period. The movie can't be all that bad with these kinds of images?