Live by Night
The key question behind Live by Night isn’t so much “Why did they bother?” as “What went wrong?”
Ah, but that's just where he's wrong. "The Devil's Own'' is an American story, to such a degree that American audiences will be able to watch this movie in total ignorance of the history of Northern Ireland, and be none the wiser at the end. Imagine this: One of the key characters is an Irish Republican Army leader who has killed more than 20 men and goes to America to buy guided missiles--and at no point in the movie, to the best of my recollection, are the words "Catholic'' or "Protestant'' ever uttered, even though sectarian conflict is at the heart of the Troubles.
This is history lite. In the opening scenes, an 8-year-old boy is having dinner with his family when masked men burst into their cottage and shoot his father dead. Flash forward 20 years, and now Francis McGuire (Brad Pitt) has been cornered in a Belfast hideout. There's a shootout with police and British troops, and then he escapes out the back way (with hundreds of men--the British somehow didn't think of the rear door). We know the father was shot by either British troops or Protestant militants (the movie doesn't bother to say), and we gather McGuire is in the IRA. But the issues involved between the two sides are never mentioned, even obliquely; for all we learn, he's avenging his father's death and that's it.
Soon he's in America, where an Irish-American judge gets him a place to live, in the basement of an honest cop named Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford).
O'Meara knows nothing about the past of the man, now calling himself Rory Devaney. He's just being a good Samaritan. Ask yourself this: How many cops, knowing what they know about the dangers of modern society, would allow a complete stranger with no job to live under the same roof with the cop's wife and daughters? But don't ask. O'Meara is simply being a nice guy. Soon we learn that Devaney has lots of money for buying guided missiles from a creep named Billy Burke (Treat Williams). And we learn that O'Meara is a very good cop, honest and unswerving. There are several scenes in which we see him avoiding the use of force and condemning cops who shoot first and ask questions later. When his partner (Ruben Blades) does just that, it forces a crisis of conscience--but it doesn't pay off, it simply sets up the cop's determination, later in the film, to bring in Devaney alive.
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