Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Most Violent Year - Movie Review

A Most Violent Year was written and directed by J.C. Chandor whose previous efforts are the critically acclaimed movies Margin Call and All is Lost. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyewolo, Alessandro Nivola, Albert Brooks, Elyes Gabel, and Christopher Abbott.

Abel and Anna Morales (Isaac and Chastain) are the owners of a heating fuel delivery company which has been under constant attack by a group of thieves who may have been hired by a rival competitor. The industry has become a very cutthroat affair as it gained prominence in the early 70's and has seen a few small groups settle in a decade later as dominant players. With underhanded tactics becoming more and more the normal way to operate the business, Morales has chosen to try and maintain a sense of credibility even as New York district attorney Lawrence looks to bring charges against the couple to root out corruption and further his own aspirations.

When I saw that Chandor's most recent effort prior to this film was All is Lost, I became skeptical and afraid this might end up being just as much of an uninteresting snooze fest. Fortunately, those concerns were quickly laid to rest as this new movie is quite the gripping and dramatic thriller with plenty of strong acting performances to go around. Chandor incorporates a very gritty look that immediately takes you back to the New York of the early 80's which was a lot dirtier and dangerous than it seems to be today. You could almost feel the cold of snow on the city streets and you almost want to wave off the smoke wafting through a darkened restaurant where a meeting is being held.

You want to talk about acting? Just say the names Isaac, Chastain, and Oyewolo and you've got instant credibility. Put the three of them together in a movie and you've got something special on your hands. To be honest, I haven't been a fan of Oscar Isaac although this role really solidifies him as an actor to be reckoned with and has me looking at him in a much more favorable light. Jessica Chastain continues to do outstanding work in every movie she has anything to do with and this performance is no exception. She brings a ton of fire to her character which is a great balance to her more even keeled counterpart in the movie. David Oyewolo is getting a ton of praise for his turn in Selma although I actually like him better in this movie even though it is a much more limited role.

A Most Violent Year is a tightly woven tale of honor among thieves embedded into the gritty streets of New York during a time before the city's fallen skyscrapers changed the world. While I enjoyed the story very much, it's really the strong acting performances by the lead cast members that make this movie one that I would absolutely recommend. For now, this film has only received a limited release so check out your local theater listings to make sure it's playing near you.


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