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Live By Night was supposed to be Ben Affleck's continuation of that winning streak he's had as a director. Sure, his year started a bit rocky, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice creating a meme of epic proportions at his expense. But with The Accountant earning some solid grosses and decent reviews, and his role referred to as the best thing in Batman v Superman was taken as a point in the win column. But then Live By Night opened with a thud, breaking the streak by not only shutting the film out of awards contention, but also costing Warner Bros. around $75 million in losses.
Variety reported that figure this past week, as Live By Night finds itself at a five week total of $16.6 million earned worldwide. If we were reporting this number in its select cities window last December, or even if the film's budget was somewhere in the $20 - $30 million budget, then it might not have stung as much. But Ben Affleck's adaptation of Dennis Lehane's crime drama allegedly cost $65 million to produce, with "tens of millions" being added to the pile in order to cover the marking expenses. For all of you money minded folks out there, we'll wait as you pick up your jaw off the floor.
The irony in this scenario is that, while Live By Nightlooked poised to become the next Godfather saga, it forgot to do one crucial thing that Francis Ford Coppola remembered: take its time. At a relatively brisk 129 minutes, the film could have run longer and gone into more detail, allowing the story to breathe better than it did with its shorter cut. Depending on who you talk to, the film is still pretty good in its current length, and we certainly have folks on staff that feel that way. However, even they can't argue with the film's run time felt like a studio note that ensured more showings for Academy members and audiences alike.
You can like, dislike, and dissect Live By Night so many different ways, and you'd probably still find the same result: once the poisonous buzz set in, there was little chance of the film delivering on the promises it made. Between too many awards competitors already in the game, La La Land steamrolling many of them, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story taking up so much of the cinematic real estate, the chances of Ben Affleck making this one a hit were pretty low. Compile that with the negative end of the spectrum focusing on the disaster that was Collateral Beauty, and you've got a movie that even failed at failing enough to grab any attention.
Live By Night, we hardly knew thee. But those of us that do, and like what you had to show us, will speak your praises to those who are looking for "something good that they haven't seen." It's just a shame we don't have $75 million lying around to bail you out. If you're interested in possibly being converted, Live By Night is still in theaters now, but judging by its box office history, it's probably harder to find than Silence. So happy hunting.