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Review - A Most Violent Year

By midlandsmovies, Jan 20 2015 09:29PM

A Most Violent Year (2015) Dir. J. C. Chandor

Statistically 1981 was one of the most violent years in New York City history and it’s against that backdrop we view a family run oil business struggling against felons, larceny and police interference in the grimy Big Apple. Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, the father of 2 and husband to Anna (Jessica Chastain) whose integrity and moral stubbornness is tested to the limit as he tries to do a business deal to expand his operation by buying a river-front property owned by a local Jewish group.

Giving him limited time to finalise (and pay for) the deal, Abel must turns every cheek on his body to remain righteous despite an impending police department investigation and rising threats against his family. The film’s slow pace allows tension to build up and the absence of almost any music shifts focus to the performances and Isaac shows a magnetic screen presence and a restaurant showdown with his rivals sees him channelling Al Pacino in The Godfather. His oily dark hair and suit bringing out incredibly dark eyes with a piercing stare that the film even brings attention to in his speeches to his wayward employees.

The snail’s pace of the film may not be for everyone and it almost grounds to a halt two-thirds in but maintains a solid if lumbering forward momentum to its conclusion. With an interesting protagonist to characterise, Isaac has the look of every Brooklyn gangster ever seen but the revelation of the movie is that throughout the movie he tries to do the right thing although this comes with its own hefty repercussions.

Chastain gives a great performance as his multi-faceted wife, equally supportive and exasperated with her obsessed husband as he fails to react to the attacks upon their idyllic life. Support from David Oyelowo as the police captain unravelling the dirty deeds on the street and Albert Brooks as Abel’s legal confidante fills out an impressive cast and the period setting is spot on in its representation of dilapidated neighbourhoods and warehouses.

The film doesn’t run out of fuel but those expecting a quick cutting gangster flick will be tested but those willing to invest in the challenging and calculative direction and some beautifully lit scenes will be rewarded with a tale of money and murky morality.

7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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