Live by Night Blu-ray review

For his fourth film as director, Ben Affleck has returned to where he started with an adaption of another Dennis Lehane novel. Sadly, unlike that superb first effort (2007's Gone Baby Gone), this Prohibition-era gangster film is an oddly flat and lifeless affair that is primarily undone by Affleck's choice of leading man – himself.

Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a Boston stick-up man who is betrayed by the woman he loves and left for dead by her boyfriend, Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). Emerging from prison three years later, Coughlin agrees to help Mafia boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) take control of the bootlegging business in Florida, knowing that it will enable him to get his revenge on White. But even after gaining control of the rum-running business, Coughlin discovers that he still has his hands full dealing with the Ku Klux Klan and a reformed drug addict-turned-revivalist preacher (Elle Fanning) – who is also the local police chief's daughter.

There's clearly a lot going on in Live by Night and the synopsis above only really scratches the surface of the myriad plots and subplots running through the film (rumours abound that the studio forced Affleck to cut around an hour of material from the final edit). Because of this, it often feels less like a film than a highlights package from a TV drama along the lines of Boardwalk Empire. Affleck's use of narration to paper over the gaps doesn't help either, as it often ends up alluding to events that leave you thinking, 'That sounds really interesting. I wish we could see that instead of what's going on now.'

As mentioned at earlier, though, the film's biggest failing is Affleck's presence in the lead role. The stoicism he utilised so well as the Dark Knight in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a huge stumbling block here; he simply can't conjure up the freewheeling attitude and charisma needed to convince as the sort of man who can win over his enemies with charm alone.

Picture: Photographed by Robert Richardson using vintage Panavision 65 lenses, Live by Night sure looks sensational. From the opening shots you're immediately struck by the precision of the 2.40:1-framed 1080p image. Intricate detailing and warm colours are balanced by deep shadows that deliberately bring to mind classic film noir productions. In one word: opulent.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: The Blu-ray's Dolby Atmos mix does a very good job of bringing the period locations to life through discrete atmospheric effects. Better yet, it also knocks it out of the park when it comes to big action set-pieces – the car chase (Chapter 2) and hotel gunfight (Chapter 11) being the most dynamic and thrilling examples.
Audio rating: 4.5/5

Extras: A reasonable selection of goodies includes an engaging chat-track with Affleck, director of photography Bob Richardson and production designer Jess Gonchor; five deleted scenes – including a lengthy alternate opening sequence – with optional commentary (16 minutes); a look at the shooting of the car chase (eight minutes); two featurettes about the film's male and female cast (nine minutes each); and a piece about author Dennis Lehane (seven minutes).
Extras rating: 2.5/5

We say: A stunning HD presentation of a lavish period crime drama that ultimately falls some way short of its own epic pretensions.

Live By Night, Warner Bros., All-region BD, £25