A Most Violent Year (2014) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

A Most Violent Year (2014) Directed by J.C. Chandor. With Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain and Albert Brooks. 

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After earning wide critical acclaim with Margin Call and All is Lost, writer-director J.C. Chandor returns with A Most Violent Year, the story of Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an aspirational businessman trying to play a straight game while surrounded by criminality and shady dealings, both at work and at home.

New York City in 1981 is a tough playground for Abel, an immigrant working to get ahead in life. Abel is a family man, and has just purchased a huge detached house for his wife (Chastain) and their young children. He’s in the oil business, and as we meet him, he’s tying up a deal that would catapult him into the big league. Of course, the higher you climb, the more unstable the ladder gets from people trying to shake you off.

The screen pairing of Isaac and Chastain is an immediately attractive one, not simply because they are beautiful people, but due to their high pedigree acting talent. With the help of pinpoint period detail, particularly the accuracy of the vehicles and fashion, the actors inhabit their characters to help us immerse in this subtle, but absorbing story.

On the face of it, the title reads like a bruising action film, and while it does occasionally switch to a more pulsating tempo, it is a reserved film with layers of subtext about not only the eventual glory of the American dream, but those who fall victim to its broken promises.

In lesser hands, a film covering this subject matter could easily have ended up slow trudge, but Chandor keeps a firm hold on his material, carefully structuring each scene and allowing his narrative to flow. Backed up with fine acting talent, and careful attention to detail, Chandor has scored a hat-trick with A Most Violent Year. It is, perhaps, the least accessible of his three films to date, but no less worthy of your time. 4.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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8 Responses to A Most Violent Year (2014) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. ghostof82 says:

    Love this film. Its a great piece of work that I hope won’t be forgotten- maybe in a few years it will be reappraised and gain the reputation it deserves. Its like a 1970s arthouse movie, you can’t say that about many new films. The soundtrack is brilliant too.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I’m feeling the love too. It does have a maturity that’s often lacking in modern movies, which reminds us of that era of gritty, but down to earth 1970’s pictures. It’s hard to guess which films will emerge as classics, as the decades pass, but you’d hope this one would pick up a little momentum. Criminally under-seen.

  2. Sean says:

    I liked this movie a lot. It’s a nice slow burn that never drags, and Chastain and Isaac are both excellent (though Albert Brooks is my favourite). Great review!

  3. Lloyd Marken says:

    I agree with Gareth, nice way to put it Sean. I really enjoyed this film Isaac channelling early Pacino, Chastain on point, two great chase scenes, and as mentioned fantastic period setting not just in props but in the look and style of the film. I couldn’t help but escape that feeling of kids dressing up in their parents clothes for some reason with the film maybe not quite measuring up to the ones that inspired it but compared to some of the films made today this was a breath of fresh air and a fantastic showcase of the talent involved.

  4. Chris Evans says:

    You had me at ‘Jessica Chastain’ haha! I like Oscar Isaac in The Force Awakens (should be an interesting villain in X-Men: Apocalypse as well) so would be interesting to see him tackle a more ‘grounded’ role like this one.

    • garethrhodes says:

      She is lovely and talented – a potent mix. I didn’t know Isaac was in the next X-Men film. He’s a busy fellow. I’m looking forward to it a lot more, knowing that. 🙂

  5. brettmkane says:

    I love this film more with each viewing, and you can never go wrong with Oscar Isaac! Great review, Gareth!

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