Movie Review: ‘A Most Violent Year’


Director: J.C. Chandor

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Justin Chastain, David Oyelowo

Plot: Abel Morales (Isaac) runs a growing oil company in New York at the beginning of the 1980s. Although he is surrounded by violence and corruption he maintains a firm set of principles to avoid becoming another gangster.

Review: Although billed as a crime drama A Most Violent Year is a reversal of the standard plot. Morales refuses to commit violent acts even in defence, and is determined to build his empire through honest means. At a time when the city of New York was at its most dangerous this is no easy feat. His competition is not afraid to take the low road, his trucks are being hijacked by armed thugs, the government is convinced he’s cooking the books and every one from his advisors to his wife want him to take more drastic action. With all sides closing in of Morales the story turns into a pressure cooker of a film that ratchet’s up the tension is a highly effective manner.

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Relatively new director Chandor has shown great restraint in crafting a classic American crime story, drawing heavily on the masters of the genre such as Coppola and Scorsese. Not that Chandor is a copycat, he’s pulled together impressive visuals, great performances and a measured story into a great film. Even with every odd getting stacked against Morales, and him being well entitled to hold his own against the corrupt, the audience still rallies behind him and genuinely does not want to see him let go of his pride. You’ll wind up on the edge of your seat as the tension mounts and when violence does strike it will hit hard.

Isaac has been an up and comer for a while, and he headlines this film with ease. Being a slick businessman he keeps his aces up his sleeve, maintaining a nuanced performance even during the most intense confrontations. It’ll be great to see what he brings to the table and the deeply evil Apocalypse in the next X-Men film. Jessica Chastain is brilliant as per usual, but as the story becomes more involved it’s a shame that she doesn’t have a greater presence in the film. 

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If you’re looking for a new crime drama that knows when to hold its cards and when to play them there isn’t much better on the market right now. It’s taken a while to get to the Australian market so make sure you check it out while you can.

Review: EIGHT out of TEN

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