A Most Violent Year (2014)

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When I saw a trailer for J.C. Chandor’s 80s crime drama, A Most Violent Year, I was intrigued, but I had some doubts. I was worried that the film would try to imitate other 80s mafia movies like Goodfellas or Scarface. Luckily A Most Violent Year instead carves out its own niche in a somewhat worn out genre. A Most Violent Year is the story of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an immigrant trying to create a successful business in 1981, New York City’s ‘most violent’ year statistically.

A Most Violent Year is unique because despite its title there is hardly any violence shown on screen. There are a few moments, but nothing compared to your typical crime film these days. The threat of violence is very important to the film though, it permeates the plot and is always in the background, usually through the radio. When violence is shown it has a powerful impact, especially the last scene.

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac sporting some great coats.
Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac sporting some great coats.

The most refreshing and enjoyable aspect of the film to me is its perspective on its protagonist, Abel Morales. A lot of films are heavy handed when it comes to their characters and the ‘message’ they want to send. People are often portrayed as black and white with no shades of grey. But A Most Violent Year is different. Abel isn’t portrayed as a ‘hero.’ He is a good man, but there are times when the audience questions what he does. I wasn’t always sure he was right in his decisions. Sometimes I thought, hell, maybe he should arm all his drivers. Maybe he should let his wife (Jessica Chastain) involve her father to solve their problems. But Abel sticks to his choice, and he manages to not do it in a ‘preachy,’ ‘I’m better than you’ way. Oscar Isaac always keeps Abel likeable and sympathetic, whereas another actor might have made him annoying. A Most Violent Year doesn’t have that stamp of righteousness on it like big Hollywood productions have. And that’s why I liked it. It is a very personal film that made me really care for its characters. Jessica Chastain is good in the film, but there are a few moments when her character threatens to turn the film into a gangster cliche.
A Most Violent Year is definitely a good film, but it is very slow. I enjoy the risks it takes and Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain are very good. But it’s not a film that I would watch again. I would recommend the movie to film buffs who enjoy intelligent films. But I don’t think it is a movie that the average film goer would enjoy. But maybe I’m underestimating people. A Most Violent Year gets 7 camel colored coats out of 10.

Trailer Review: A Most Violent Year

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This film is about an immigrant who moves to New York in 1981, statistically one of the city’s most violent years, and tries to provide for his family by taking advantage of the rampant corruption. The film stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain and is directed by J. C. Chandor. I like this trailer. I find it very intriguing and I like that not too much is revealed in it. Most trailers give away the entire film these days. This one, fortunately, does not. I’m not a huge Jessica Chastain fan, I don’t find her particularly amazing. If anything I think she’s kind of boring and the way everyone seems to fawn over her just turns me off. But anyways, I’ll give her another chance when I see this film. I found her to be one of the most interesting aspects of this trailer. Will she be the typical housewife like Lorraine Bracco’s character in Goodfellas? Or will she push her husband to go to extremes? The trailer as a whole reminds me of Goodfellas for some reason. Maybe because it’s set in the 80s, but it’s also the same kind of tale of decent into corruption. Although Goodfellas had a lot of humor to it as well whereas this seems very serious. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Anyways, the film comes out December 31, 2014 and I’m intrigued enough that I might actually drag myself to the theater to see it.