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George At 

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Featured Movie Reviews

Live By Night

Once in awhile, a film really surprises you.

Surpassing my expectations in every way, Ben Affleck's LIVE BY NIGHT is a terrific movie.

It's the roaring 1920's in Chicago, gangsters and prohibition are in full flight, with violence and wild parties erupting in equal measure.

Affleck is Joe Coughlin, a young and aspiring gangster learning from the best and moving quickly up the ladder. His father Tom Coughlin (Brendan Gleeson) is a Chicago police captain, torn by his duty to the city and his love of his son.

Based on the book by Dennis Lehane, the story turns all the cliches you think you know on their head, delving deep into Joe's world and creating a story that has all the best gangster movie elements you like, with a different take on many of them.

Affleck seems like a perfect fit for Lehane's material, just as the two were when they combined in 2007 for "Gone Baby Gone".

The film's second half picks Joe and the viewer up and drops us in a very young Florida, swimming in opportunity for partnerships with the rum runners of Cuba and Joe's Chicago based operation.

Joe meets four key people that will change his life.

Chris Cooper (August:Osage County, American Beauty) is Chief Figgis, the local lawman who will keep his hands off of Joe if his basic rules are followed.

RD Pruitt (Matthew Maher) Chief Figgis' very dim brother-in-law runs the very active Florida sect of the KKK, just as committed to violence as the mob, but with a much darker moral code.

Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy) is Graceila, the sister half of a brother/sister rum running team. She falls in love with Joe and becomes the only woman he can trust.

Elle Fanning (Maleficent) is Chief Figgis' daughter, who goes from wanna-be-starlet to something much more dangerous.

Ben Affleck wrote and directed the film and I think it's damn near as good as his last great film in those roles, "Argo".

There are quiet moments like Affleck and Fanning's powerful conversation in the diner, matched with some explosive action scenes like the final showdown in the Florida mansion, that's nearly perfectly staged and is one of the best shootouts in recent memory.

With a $65 million budget and $10 million at the box office, this was a HUGE bomb for Affleck and the studio.

And it's a shame. It deserves to be seen.

In its best moments, there are echoes of Sydney Pollack's underrated "Havana" and notes of Scorcese's "Goodfellas".

LIVE BY NIGHT deserves another life with film-goers. Filled with tommy guns, great photography, quiet drama and action, it's a dark, violent and adult crime drama that gets an A.

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