Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 2016. Appian Way, Pearl Street Films, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Warner Bros., iMint Media. Screenplay by Ben Affleck, based on the novel by Dennis Lehane. Cinematography by Robert Richardson. Produced by Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Jennifer Todd. Music by Harry Gregson-Williams. Production Design by Jess Gonchor. Costume Design by Jacqueline West. Film Editing by William Goldenberg.
Ben Affleck returns to the writings of Dennis Lehane, whose novel Gone Baby Gone was his directorial debut nine years earlier. He stars as a small-time Boston thug whose conflict with a powerful Irish rum runner propels him to become a big-time Florida gangster working for the Italian mob family who want to run the Irish out of booze and gambling. The ins and outs of shady business are placed in the background while Affleck focuses on a number of key relationships that never quite take off, including his love affair with a Cuban booze smuggler’s sister (Zoe Saldana), the interference of a temple revival leader (Elle Fanning) and his friendship with his loyal and resourceful best friend (Chris Messina). A lot of great actors mysteriously have no chemistry with each other here, while the gorgeous production and costume design contribute surprisingly little to the film’s attempts at sultry atmosphere. It’s hard to figure out why this one doesn’t work, though it may rest with the fact that Affleck, while appealing and sympathetic, doesn’t have enough compelling moral ambiguity to carry the entirety of the plot on his admittedly broad shoulders. The film is not an embarrassment of any kind, but it is only passably satisfying.