Live by Night

Every city had one spring up. Think Harlem down south, or Sweet Auburn only seedier and more crime ridden. Ybor City in Tampa was the location where Irish, Italian and Cuban outlaws struggled for dominance over the rum trade. Author Dennis Lehane set his novel there and director/screenwriter Ben Affleck has attempted to pay homage to those 1930s and 40s Warner Bros. gangster flicks right down to the title recalling They Live By Night in his adaptation of the story. Joe Couglin (Affleck) returns from the “War to End All Wars” a bit bitter but with a moral code which has him justifying knocking over liquor stores and robbing poker games until he crossed the line, shacking up with a gangster’s girl (Sienna Miller, who should’ve been the focus of this entire film!) He’s hauled down to Tampa where he immediately falls in with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), whose family runs the booze about town and has come under fire from the Italians and the KKK. The story would make for an intriguing six-part A&E mini play about fathers and daughters but too much is crammed into a two-hour and twenty-minute feature that has local police chief Chris Cooper desperately struggling to come to terms with his daughter (Elle Fanning) leaving for Hollywood fame, only to return after wading into porn waters and becoming a tent revivalist evangelical minister! Ultimately, the point being that the time between WWI and the end of Prohibition laid the groundwork for America’s move from centralized corruption into the backhole brothels and dirtfloor dope dens to follow!