A MOST VIOLENT YEAR – Review by Susan Granger
Set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically the most dangerous year in the city’s history, J.C. Chandor’s intense noir-thriller combines political intrigue with industrial corruption. Ambitious, idealistic Hispanic immigrant Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) started as a fuel truck driver for a heating oil distributor. When he marries the mob-connected boss’s daughter Anna (Jessica Chastain) and they take over the family business, he discovers it’s not easy being honest in the crime-riddled city. After making a deal to purchase a waterfront storage facility, Morales is faced with a series of brutal anonymous attacks, hijacking his drivers and stealing his fuel. Egged on by Anna and his lawyer (Albert Brooks), he turns to desperate measures to protect his property, his family and his chunk of the American Dream. Read on…
Oscar Isaac (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) conjures up memories of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone, and the scene where he explains to new salesmen how to act classy and close a deal is a gem. There’s also a chase on an elevated train and shootout on the 59th Street Bridge between Manhattan and Queens.
Adopting a thick Brooklyn accent, Jessica Chastain is formidable foil, and the strong supporting cast includes David Oyelowo, Eyles Gabel, Alessandro Nivola and Jerry Adler.
Writer/director J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call,” “All is Lost”) was writing the script when the tragic shooting occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, not far from his home.
“It made me think of this idea of escalation – how in act of violence ripples on society,” he recalls. And this taut, richly atmospheric crime drama obviously takes inspiration from Sidney Lumet’s “Prince of the City,” also set in 1981.
Chandor’s next film tackles the explosion and sinking of the British Petroleum offshore oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, sparking the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Most Violent Year” is a gritty, savvy 7. Impeccably crafted, it evokes a turbulent time.