Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks, Elyes Gabel, Alessandro Nivola
Directed By: J.C. Chandor
Written By: J.C. Chandor
Rating: R (US) Running Time: 2 hr 5 min
1981 was indeed a most violent year in New York City, with more than 120,000 reported robberies and 2,100 murders. Such is the stage, set for J.C. Chandor’s (All is Lost) atmospheric tale of business and corruption within the heating oil business. Navigated by the only honorable man in this story, Abel Morales, played with an almost unsettling cool swagger, by the very talented Oscar Isacc.
Now, can someone explain to me why A Most Violent Year isn’t nominated for a best film Oscar? Of last years nominees, it reminded me the most of American Hustle. Similar in that it’s a crime story, with a period setting that was well directed and acted. But for me, missing a key ingredient; a protagonist I could actually care about.
A Most Violent Year doesn’t have that problem, and Abel Morales is in fact the bravest man in a room surrounded by corrupt cops, dirty business competition and gun wielding gangsters. It’s a fascinating film in that it looks and feels like a gangster flick, but at the center of it all is a man only armed with a strong sense of purpose, and a desire to walk the path that is ‘most right.’ Which is nicely illustrated by a sub-plot involving one of Abel’s truck drivers, Julian (Elyes Gabel) who is savagely attacked at the beginning of the film. Both men are the same, but Julian chooses to respond to his attackers with anger and fear, while Abel takes a calmer more measured approach. Choosing to work through his problems legally, despite having ties to the mob through his wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain).
Superbly crafted, and beautifully photographed by Bradford Young (Selma), A Most Violent Year moves at a pace that always suits the story. Jessica Chastain turns in an intimidating performance as Abel’s strong-willed wife Anna, and Albert Brooks is almost unrecognizable in a nice supporting turn as Abel’s attorney.
If you enjoyed American Hustle, I think you’ll enjoy this too. It’s a cool mobster film, without mobsters! A Most Violent Year is rated R due to some violent content and language.
This is a gorgeous film, and I particularly liked the two action scenes involving chases through New York City. A theater screening is recommended, but if you wait for the rental, make sure you get the HD version to watch on a nice big TV. The impact of this film will be ruined on a laptop, tablet or smartphone sized screen.
I loved this scene as Abel provides instructions to his new sales team. It perfectly encapsulates what Abel is all about.