A Most Violent Year (2014) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
207 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
9/10
Supremely Interesting Story Highlights Sleeper Hit Of 2014
andy-6644721 August 2015
J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year takes place in 1981 New York City – the year New York suffered more murders than in any other. Without knowing a thing about A Most Violent Year, I looked forward to a police procedural or a mafia thriller, dealing with the homicidal apex to the desperation of the recession of 1980. But I was wrong. Very wrong.

Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, owner of a New York fuel oil company, in the midst of purchasing property along the East River which would position his company as a major player in the regional fuel oil market. Simultaneously, a rival firm is attacking Morales' truck drivers and stealing their fuel. Morales' wife, Anna, is descended from a mafia family, and she offers their assistance. But Abel Morales is a good and decent businessman, and he resists. At first. As the driver attacks amplify, Morales' salesmen and even his family are soon targeted by the rival businessmen. Meanwhile, an assistant district attorney, played by David Oyelowo of "Selma," is investigating corruption in the local fuel oil industry, including Morales' firm. And the deal to purchase the East River property becomes dubious when his bank backs out of financing it. All this is set against the backdrop of the 1981 New York murders. The murders themselves are not the story, but we hear about them anytime one of the characters turns on a radio.

Now this set-up may sound like a glorified TV movie, but A Most Violent Year is so much more. As the tension in Morales' life builds, director Chandor draws us into the story the way Martin Scorsese does. We find ourselves pulling for an honest businessman in an increasingly dishonest world. We wonder how long it will take until he involves his wife's mafia family – or worse, takes matters into his own hands. This could be a story about one man's downward spiral, but with a resolution that will surprise and delight you. And you'll love the thrill ride along the way – culminating in a chase scene through the bowels of New York's subway and rail systems. It's as riveting as Gene Hackman's chase scene in The French Connection.

The performances are top-notch, beginning with relative newcomer Oscar Isaac in the lead role. A year ago, he played a folk singer in the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, a small, above-average picture which got buried in the onslaught of excellent films released at the end of 2013. Isaac really shines here. He should have received a Best Actor nod, but I'm sure his day is coming. Coincidentally, Isaac is slated to appear in the new Star Wars picture, which hits theatres next fall.

Jessica Chastain is also excellent as Morales' wife – a decent-hearted lady who wishes her husband were a little more daring in his business dealings. Her character is more than the standard "wife" character we've seen many times before. She's intimately involved in the business, and she's not afraid to stand up to adversaries. An almost unidentifiable Albert Brooks plays Morales' lawyer Andrew, again intimately involved in the business, but more than just the "straight man" character we've seen before. And I love how Chandor's script allows us to become acquainted with various characters in Morales' life and in his business – a truck driver and his wife, a salesman, the teamster boss who pushes for Morales to arm his drivers, a couple of Morales' business competitors, and so forth. Each character is well-drawn, and serves an important role in this supremely interesting story.

I also like the look of this picture. It's a bit of a modern-day film noir, cast in dimly-lit interiors, with characters who speak in hushed tones about important matters, occasionally bursting into the sunny yet unpredictable and unnerving outside world.

The only thing I didn't like about A Most Violent Year is its title. Much as the 1987 film Dirty Dancing had nothing to do with pole dancers at strip clubs, A Most Violent Year has nothing to do with violence, per se. In fact, I don't really understand what necessitated placing the story in 1981. The fact that New York's murder rate peaked that year is immaterial to the story.

A Most Violent Year is going to be a sleeper amongst Oscar contenders like Birdman, Selma, The Theory Of Everything, and others. But it's well worth a look. They don't make movies like this much anymore, and I'm glad J.C. Chandor has. It's one of this year's best films.
22 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Much better than the standard gangster flick implied by the title
nikatnyte24 January 2015
I've been amazed at some of the slams this movie has taken. No story? Boring? Slow? You've got to be kidding. This was a fascinating character study of an "honorable man" trying to retain his honor in a corrupt business and political environment. From the title, I was expecting more of a traditional Martin Scorcese gangster flick, so I was surprised (pleasantly) that "violence" of the film was primarily about two codes of life clashing against one another. I can certainly understand a viewer attracted to the film because of the word "violence" ibeing disappointed at seeing so little on the screen. But I found the film riveting: excellent plotting, great writing and superb performances.
147 out of 173 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
He's Pacino without the edge. One of best crime thrillers in years.
jdesando28 January 2015
It's 1981 NYC, and it's not American Hustle. A Most Violent Year is set in the most brutal year in the city's history, when Mayor Koch and the DA would not like it to be so. While Hustle sets the scene with humor and style, Violent is happy to understate lawlessness and concentrate on the dialogue, which has undercurrents of corruption in each syllable.

Oscar Isaac plays immigrant, oil delivery company owner, Abel Morales, with an Al-Pacino veneer that goes low key, not Godfather or Scarface operatic. His double-breasted suits and ever-present camel overcoat suggest the smooth, verbal, charismatic, but unassuming business owner who wants to be as straight as his wardrobe. It's a difficult ideal because someone is hijacking his oil trucks and selling the oil on the black market.

What to do? His wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), beautiful but born to a crime family, is at times more ready to deal with the sabotage in a traditional mob way than her husband is. But Morales deals with it in a civilized, diplomatic way that of course makes him and his employees vulnerable to the rude, irrational hoodlums.

Director J.C. Chandor knows minimalist dialogue, apparent in his All is Lost, where Robert Redford gives out with one line but an Oscar worthy performance anyway. Much more dialogue here, still minimal, but it has the David Mamet attention to the power of each word.

In a world Sidney Lumet depicted quite well, everyone has a brush with lawlessness, from truck drivers to cops to politicians—no one is exempt, except maybe Morales, who tries to do the "best right" thing in the face of pressure to use violence as the tried-and-true technique. That's why this is such a sweet action, crime drama: You can identify with the protagonist and not be bogged down by gratuitous violence.

This is one of the best action-crime dramas in years. Isaac is Pacino without his edginess; Chandor's dialogue is soft Mamet, a welcome substitute for rude bullets. Indeed, while the film is titled A Most Violent Year, it is not the most violent movie. Leave that to Martin Scorsese.
45 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Atmospheric dark drama
spaceman8817 February 2015
Having seen it a few days ago, the more I think of "A Most Violent Year", the more I like it.

This is not a spoiler, but a friendly tip: don't expect a lot of what the title implies, because the movie does not focus on violence.

While there are tense and violent moments, the movie's strenght lies in the performances and the interactions between characters.

Oscar Isaac plays Abel, a businessman who is trying to make a clean living while being more and more pressured by an unknown threat. The competition plays dirty while he wants to stay an honest man.

Abel's moral struggle is what the narrative revolves around. Jessica Chastain play Anna, Abel's wife and business partner. She is equally as powerful, assertive and dominant as he is, if not more so.

The director did a wonderful job at creating a tense, sad and dramatic mood throughout. The cinematography is wonderful, the subtle moody soundtrack plays a big part in creating a feeling of impending doom throughout the entire movie, and I am very impressed by the recreation of a 1981 New York. It's very immersive.

While nothing mainstream audiences will drool over, I find "A Most Violent Year" an excellent drama. If you like this movie, you should give "The Two Faces Of January" a chance as well. Not only you would notice what a chameleon Oscar Isaac is, but you might enjoy the classic mood and character-driven vibe of that film as well.
54 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Finding ethics in an amoral place
StevePulaski23 April 2015
J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year is almost lyrical in its beauty, exuding a sepia-toned environment that captures essence rather than exploiting nostalgia of the time period. It's 1981, said to be one of New York's most violent years, and, paradoxically, A Most Violent Year doesn't focus on the incredibly violent; it focuses on what happens between all the violence and on the outskirts of all the madness. We follow Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), who runs Standard Oil, a heating oil company that has been plagued by frequent hijackings of the company's utility trucks, resulting in thousands of dollars in lost materials. Abel is a man who tries to have a firm moral compass, believing in the good of people and resisting the temptation to give into complete and total corruption, despite being heavily influenced to do so by his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain).

On top of the company losing money with every hijacking, a District Attorney named Lawrence (David Oyelowo) is in the process of investigating Standard Oil's fraudulent activity, such as price fixing and tax evasion. This brings Abel's company and dreams down even more, leading him to seek the purchase of an oil terminal on a river bank with the leader of Jewish Chassidim (Jerry Adler). This purchase would allow for more storage for Abel's company, which will help for when fuel prices lower in the summertime and eventually rise during the winter. He tries to manage this all while minimizing relations with gangsters and attempting not to turn into the person he promised himself he didn't want to become.

A Most Violent Year's marketing campaign made it seem as if this film was a hardened gangster epic. The film itself, however, finds ways to work against that stereotype, acting as the contrasting force or the "anti" to a great deal of gangster films thanks to the ethics of its character. Abel's character is a fascinating one because never does he fall into the category of being an anti-hero or a traditional hero. He tows the line, and even by the end of the film, we're not totally sure if we're supposed to side with him because we've seen him do equally admirable and contemptible things.

The problem with Abel's methods is that while he's willing to play fair, he has found that his business, and the business world in general, calls for grittier, more devious play, which is why we see him in the mess he's in now. Writer/director Chandor explores how man gets sucked into this world whilst trying to function in the business world, almost suggesting that the system encourages and eventually forces such drastic illegalities to take place over time. The idea that large-scale business operations and closed-door corruption exist in unison is by no means a new idea, but Chandor magnifies the idea through an intriguing lens, giving us a character that is trying to function on this dirty playing field and learning this idea the hard way.

Abel, at times, acts like Job, if we're going to toy a bit with the name of Abel, presuming it has biblical relevance here. Abel's morality is tested on various occasions, and like Job, in some respects, he tries to stay true to what he believes, but once he recognizes he's in a business that demands risk and self-interest, it's difficult for him to stay on this particular path of righteousness.

It only helps that Abel's struggle is humanized and brought to life by a character actor as powerful and talented as Oscar Isaac. Isaac, who completely won me over in the emotionally-affecting Inside Llewyn Davis, through just two acclaimed starring roles, has proved to be an exceptional actor we must keep our eyes on or else he'll slip further under the radar than he has. Isaac's strength comes in the frequent subtleties he infuses in Abel. We often see him trying to bottle all his rage and impulsive emotions up, only allowing his anger to slip in front of people like his wife or his attorney (Albert Brooks) but in a very sporadic manner. Isaac's portrayal of a man grappling with all he can bear is powerful stuff, and it's these ordinary little, true-to-life inclusions that make him explode on screen.

He's so good that it makes me wish Chastain was given more of a character here instead of the instigating wife. Her persistent belittling of what she perceives is her husband's passivity makes her character lose any kind of narrative or emotional relevance as we see her just as another variation on the nagging wife cliché. To be fair, however, Isaac commands so much ground here that it's difficult for veterans like Brooks to keep up with him while in the same frame, but Chastain's character and acting abilities are sorely undermined here.

A Most Violent Year is like an enormous piece of art on a large, spacious canvas with many colors, patterns, and designs. It's hard to take it all in while it's happening right before your eyes, but once you digest it and see it through, it becomes something you can't take your eyes off and, in turn, appreciate on many different levels.

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks, and Jerry Adler. Directed by: J.C. Chandor.
33 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A gritty, atmospheric throwback crime thriller with its cast in top form
trublu2152 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
A Most Violent Year marks J.C. Chandor's directorial return to form in this gritty thriller telling the tale of a man constantly pressured by the elements of his surroundings. Featuring an onslaught of phenomenal performances and a slow burning screenplay, A Most Violent Year rises on the list of the very best of 2014. The film tells the story of the Morales family as they struggle to maintain their business empire during 1981 New York City, which is statistically the city's most crime ridden year. The film follows Abel, played by Oscar Issac, an immigrant who started his home oil business from the ground up and essentially is living the American Dream. When hijackings begin to start happening, one of which turning violent, the NYPD begin to dig into his empire, setting off a chain reaction of events that threaten to destroy the life he worked so hard to build. The film is an interesting contrast between Abel the family man and Abel the business man. He is a man that isn't afraid to do the unthinkable if he is crossed, not because he is a gangster or a violent criminal but because he is protecting what he cares about and when push comes to shove, he is willing to do whatever it takes. The best parts of A Most Violent Year come from the scenes with Abel and Anna, played by Oscar Issac and Jessica Chastain. To start off, both of these actors deliver career best performances and make you feel every word their saying. This is definite kudos to Chandor. His ability to humanize his characters is impeccable and A Most Violent Year is a clear cut showcase of what he is capable of behind the camera. To Chandor, his actors are key, without them, this film could fall apart very easily with one false note. It feels as if Chandor wrote the screenplay for these two and it really pays off, especially for Jessica Chastain, who is unbelievably good playing a manipulative Shakespearean femme fatale. The supporting cast features David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, and the great Albert Brooks and they are absolutely exceptional in this film. The screenplay, as I said above, is terrific. It is realistic and grounded in 1970s-esque grit, echoing back to films such as The Friends of Eddie Coyle, The French Connection and Serpico. This is a film that fits very nicely in between The French Connection and Serpico. It is not a film about an event or a chronicle of the most violent year in New York's history, it is about characters. It is a character driven film and those of you who are looking for something a bit more filling regarding entertainment value, you'll be sorely disappointed with this film. Despite it's title, there are very few scenes of violence but when there is violence, it is usually sudden and realistic and doesn't wallow in the actual act of violence, it analyzes the affects of the violence at hand. My only issue that I had with A Most Violent Year is the cinematography. Bradford Young is an amazing cinematographer and really does well behind the camera but I don't feel as though he captured the essence of 1981. The film is crisp, clean and very digitized considering the time period we're supposed to be set in. The colors are all there and the tones are perfect but it is just too crisp looking and doesn't allow us to truly experience Chandor's New York City. Despite the digital look, the film's colors are very cold and desolate, making New York look as if it were on its way to becoming a deserted wasteland. Overall, A Most Violent Year is a slow burning crime thriller that is seeping with great performances and a brilliant script. I highly recommend it.
76 out of 113 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Methodic Thriller
matthewssilverhammer14 February 2015
Chandor (All is Lost) is one of the more prolific young directors working. With AMVY, an adult mystery-drama-thriller, he screams of the classics: tension of French Connection, quiet of Chinatown, and menace of Mean Streets. It's a fantastic period piece that creates an authentic, distinct look at 1980s New York, while tonally replicating films from that era. Is it a bit TOO quiet and a bit TOO slow at times? Yep…but the taut skill on display is too good to ignore. Abel Morales, a successful, hardworking oil company owner, tries to thrive and survive during 1981 NYC, the most violent year in history. Despite this premise, the crime-action is more a successfully imminent background thought than a constant in-your- face presence. As the movie progresses and ultimately gets better, the subtle suspense builds, and each individual incident pushes Morales closer to his breaking point. Isaac shines in the protagonist role, playing one of the coolest characters around: broken yet proud, strong yet vulnerable, decent yet pressed, and shrewdly bad-to-the-bone. I wish Chastain was a bit more up to the task as his ominous, hardly-doting wife, but luckily she's not a huge distraction to the otherwise stellar acting by some of Hollywood's great new talents. Throughout the solid work being done, we are presented with some great things to ponder: wanting the American dream without knowing why; struggling to be successful without becoming corrupt; juggling humility and pride in a world that drains you. Unfortunately the character's relationships with these different questions bring the movie to a bore at times. Mostly though, it manages to be a solid little award-season drama.
42 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A Most Violent Year - Good but no cigar !!
Sausage112 January 2015
First of all let me just say, if IMDb allowed 0.5 votes, this would probably get a 6.5 from me. Where to begin with this one ? Well it's shot well, the cast nail the parts, but from start to finish you are waiting for the film to come to life, and unfortunately it just never does.

Some people will appreciate this film much more than others, but for me it was average at best. The main reason we all watch films and television, is to be entertained, and unfortunately with A Most Violent Year, it feels like we have been left wanting.

You never really get to appreciate 1980s New York, a couple of panoramic skylines don't really cut it. With a bit more substance to the story, better visuals & some period music, this film could & should have been much better.

Sausage1
98 out of 157 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
When I was 11, it was a very violent year...
dfranzen702 February 2015
In 1981, an immigrant oilman struggles to improve his fortune and protect his family during the most dangerous year in New York City's history. A Most Violent Year is a strong, character-driven drama that's lifted infinitely by terrific lead performances by Oscar Isaacs and Jessica Chastain, inflating what could have been a tiresome, trite look at one man versus the world in an unkind city.

Abel Morales (Isaac) runs Standard Oil, and he has his eyes on some prime waterfront real estate. With this land, he'll be able to fill his trucks from directly from the oil barges on the river, rather than have the oil transported from boat to someone else's trucks and then to his warehouses. And by saving money there, he'll be able to buy a little more oil than he normally would, keep it on the premises, and then sell it to customers or competitors when demand rises. He makes a deal for the land with a sizable down payment and the stipulation that the balance be tendered within 30 days - no extensions allowed. This, of course, is before Abel's company comes under investigation by an intrepid detective (David Oyelowo), his trucks get highjacked and the oil stolen, and his backers start to, well, back away.

But Abel is no wilting flower, whether he's dealing with the fuzz or the other oilmen in the city. He has his convictions, and damned if he's going to give them up to appease anyone. Which, as you might suspect, makes things a little more difficult. His wife Anna (Chastain), who can match Abel in sheer willpower, is also fiercely protective of her husband, her business (she's the bookkeeper), and her family. Sort of a two-pronged attack. Abel's charm and style nets him both friends and enemies, but this isn't yet another mobster movie by any means. In fact, the only direct evidence of organized crime in the movie centers around Abel's competition - men who would do anything to maintain and/or increase their share of the lucrative oil business in the city.

Both Isaacs (Inside Llewyn Davis) and Chastain (Interstellar) deliver powerful performances that manage to be both relatable and fascinating. Theirs is not a one-sided relationship. Abel is not some power-mad, bombastic husband who treats the wife and kids as either baggage or items to be used for fun and profit. Anna is not some melodramatic, over-spirited harpy who resents her husband's work obsession. They work together even when they disagree. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention an almost unrecognizable Albert Brooks, the company's astute and slightly amoral lawyer. Brooks, in what appears to be a Karl Malden wig, is a real treat.

A Most Violent Year carries a strong message, and that message is this: don't count the little guy out, particularly when he (and his spouse) is whip-smart, unafraid to take chances, and endlessly resourceful. High praise indeed for director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost) and his talented cast.
43 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
for those of us who love these types of films, 'A Most Violent Year' is a real treat.
bryank-0484412 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
By the title alone, you'd think this was in fact 'A Most Violent Year' or a very violent movie. However, that is not exactly the case here. In fact, it's far from it. J.C. Chandor's screenplay and film is a very slow burn that tells a story of the seedy underbelly of competing heating oil suppliers in 1981 New York City. The reason for the film's title is that 1981 was considered New York City's most violent year on record.

Chandor has a knack for telling very compelling stories with a slow burn such as in 'Margin Call' and in 'All Is Lost', but with 'A Most Violent Year', we focus on a business man who is trying to run a lucrative business on the straight and narrow path in a setting where there are bad elements and gangsters everywhere. We closely follow Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) who runs a heating oil company in New York City. He meets with a few Hasidic Jews to buy their oil storage warehouses right off the docks. He puts down a down payment and must come up with the rest of the money in a month or lose the entire investment.

This deal will put him on top of the oil business, and if it doesn't go through, he will lose everything. Meanwhile, as we see in the first scene, one of his truck drivers, Julian (Elyes Gabel) is viciously attacked and thrown out of his truck, while the attackers make off with the truck. This is happening more often than not to Abel's business, but he keeps his cool. Come to find out, Abel's wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) is the daughter of a notorious mob boss, who is responsible for giving Abel this oil business.

But Abel is not in this for the crime or to do bad things. He's in it to provide for his family and run a legitimate business. But his wife thinks this is an all out war with other mafia families and tries to persuade him to take action. And I have to hand it to Chandor for keeping our main character Abel always calm and cool and never straying into the dark side. Even when the union tries to force the drivers to carry handguns, Abel refuses, inciting that it will only escalate things. In the meantime, the local assistant D.A. (David Oyelowo) is charging Abel with a few counts of fraud and cooking the books to which Abel's lawyer (Albert Brooks) is always by his side to give advice.

As more and more of Abel's truck drivers and even salesmen are being brutally attacked, Abel must decide how to deal with this horrible situation and above all else, decide who is causing all of these problems. In a 'Godfather' like scene, Abel meets with the other oil companies to have a Pow Wow and figure out who is responsible, but nothing seems to get accomplished. As all of this is going on, Abel still has to come up with money to pay the Hasidic Jews.

It's such a treat to watch the well coiffed Oscar Issac play his role with such a cool demeanor, never caving into violent tactics or hurting anyone. And Chastain's performance of his outspoken thrill seeking wife is a lot of fun to watch. J.C. Chandor has almost perfectly concocted a story of a man who is willing to do anything to stay on the righteous path. It's a slow film that is full of the best kind of drama between characters, but it might not have enough energy to garner a large audience. But for those of us who love these types of films, 'A Most Violent Year' is a real treat.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
2/10
Just don't bother with this one !
ianclarke34014 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Overall I found the acting OK and the cinematography pretty decent but that's about all I liked about this one.

It's the story of a guy who's distribution network is having issues, that's it ! There are a couple of side stories within the film such as the main character trying to raise some cash to close a deal and one of his drivers having courage issues plus the Police wanting to look into his dealings a bit deeper but there's no real drama or interest at all !

I was expecting something much different than what it is so maybe I was just peeved that it didn't have what I would expect from a film with such high ratings. 2 hours of wishing it would end and when it finally did, I was so let down and felt cheated, that's why I recommend that you just don't bother with this one !
52 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Worth it for Mr Isaac alone
adamscastlevania23 February 2015
(76%) There are multiple reasons why this should be a prime target for most cinema fans, but the main reason of all is the ever impressive Oscar Isaac. He's fantastic here in the lead role toiling against what feels like everything to legitimately succeed as a fuel dealer during a crime plagued era in New York history. While backing him up brilliantly is Jessica Chastain as his glamorous, tough, yet fully supportive wife. The direction from the outset is silky smooth, while still very calculated. But there are clear issues surrounding the film's momentum as this flat- out refuses to break away from its total sense of realism, meaning this is a easy film to respect, but fun to watch it ain't. Although in terms of a quality crime drama with real refinement in-front and behind the camera then look no further.
29 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
That year wasn't that violent after all ...
peterp-450-29871620 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"If I were you, I would start treating us with a little more respect or I guarantee he will make it his mission in life to ruin you."

New York,1981. The most violent year in the history of the metropolis New York. No doubt about it, but that violence probably took place somewhere else than where this film took place. Are you expecting some sort of mafia film like "Once upon a time in America", "The Godfather", "Scarface" or "The Untouchables" ? Well sorry, but this will be a disappointment for you because it's not such type of mafia movie. Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is the opposite of a Don Corleone. Anything that smells like mafia stuff or corruption, he tries to avoid studiously. He's trying to run his business in oil fair and square, without falling back on violent and corrupt interventions. And this despite the tough competition which apparently has no problem with applying harsh and intimidating methods. Abel, the epitome of honesty in these turbulent criminal years, faces terrified truck drivers and an increasing loss because of stolen oil. This together with an investigation by the District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo), who is determined to uncover wrongdoings, ensures that an investment Morales trying to finalize with some Jewish businessmen, will be compromised and is doomed to fail.

I didn't expect a film about a supplier of oil in the first place. It certainly provides opportunities for other business sectors to be placed at the center of public attention. After "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Promised Land" it was time to put the hard-working fuel suppliers, who make sure that we ordinary citizens have a cozy warm house during a severe winter, in the spotlight. I don't want to have a prejudice against this noble profession, but as a subject, it resulted in a painfully slow movie in which there was not much to be seen. I did notice the terrible shortage of light-bulbs in that time. Large parts of the film are bathed in scorching darkness. Dark offices, dark corridors, nocturnal wanderings through the house and garden, dark tunnels and staircases. Probably it has to do with the fact that these were the most nefarious years and the protagonists were accustomed to nightly activities. Or it's because many things weren't allowed to see the light in that period ? I'm still completely in the dark about that.

I'll be honest though. The performances are spectacular. Isaac plays the stubborn manager masterfully. Despite all the setbacks and the enormous pressure he remains determined on the outlined course he doesn't want to deviate from. Despite the warning from a union man that the truck drivers will abandon him and the continuing distrust of his wife Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain), which apparently has a mafia past, has a dizzying cleavage and commits the only violent offense in this film (with a poor deer as the victim), he doesn't want to yield to unfair practices. He fits perfectly in snowy New York. He's as cool and chilly. And that was my biggest problem with the characters. They are all totally numb. Anna is even colder than Abel. The only one who showed some emotions was Julian (Elyes Gabel) whose fear and desperation were believable.

I've also seen A.J. Chandor's film "All is lost" long time ago and can only conclude that this film fits perfectly. "All is lost" was also visualized beautifully with an unusual rendition, but painfully slow and boring. Brilliant performances, elaborate personalities and expressive character roles serve as the foundation of timeless classics. But when a movie only contains that and has nothing else interesting to offer, you can be sure that a large part of the audience will be slightly disappointed. Including me.

I'm sure that Morales has the saying "Honesty is the best policy" framed above his bed. And yet, his character was quite contradictory when it comes to being honest. The term "morality" is extremely valuable to Morales (What's in a name), but at the final confrontation with Lawrence, corruption comes into play. The "like knows like" feeling pops up and then finally Morales tends to do a favor in a way it's still applied nowadays in the world of business and politics. And the ultimate act in the end, with a banal handkerchief being used to seal a puncture in a huge oil tank, is implausible as a physical phenomenon and also in contradiction with the character of Abel. Apparently the business aspect is more important than the human aspect at that moment. Eventually still a ruthless businessman, our saint Abel.

More reviews at http://opinion-as-a-moviefreak.blogspot.be
20 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
A most excellent movie to end the year.
bbickley13-921-586644 January 2015
Technically,one of the last movies released in 2014 on the year's final day, just in time for award season, cause it's that type of movie to impress awarders.

I do praise the movie, especially for it's stylized throwback to the late 70s-early 80s when the movie takes place , 1981 to be precise.

Oscar Isaac is becoming the man to watch out for. He never seemed like a leading man type, but after seeing him in Inside Llewyn Davis and this, I'm having a change of opinion.

David Oyelowo is another one I need to watch out for, although it's not hard, as he's been appearing in a lot of films, and gives a great performance no matter how small his supporting role is

The lovely Jessica Chastain is in the movie as well, being very brilliant and very sexy. I only wish she had more time on screen cause she's lovely to watch in all aspects.

The film also stars Albert Brooks in a role I feel he got because of his outstanding performance in Drive.

It's a very quiet movie with a lot of the drama coming from things not said but suggested. Not much action, but the little bit did get my blood pumping. It also had humor in the drama. It really does feel like it was done in 1981 too. Such a brilliant job by the filmmakers.
47 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
If I Could Rate It As A Zero I Would
bullseyeanddove4 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The problem with critics is that they can't differentiate between a great movie, and a movie that is well acted, but an utter P.O.S. This movie is the latter.

This movie is the quintessential amazing trailer, GOD AWFUL movie. That's mainly because the trailer itself is a sham. Its a lie. Its a used car salesman who sells you that sweet ride and is yelling "all sales are final" as it breaks down outside of the lot.

This is billed as a gangster movie. Its not. Its far from it. The main character doesn't do anything that would REMOTELY be qualified as a "gangster". Its title leads you to believe its "violent". Its not. Apart from a scrap or two, its pretty far from violent. They even went so far to mention the Godfather when billing this movie. That's laughable.

This movie is a 2 hour movie that feels like its a 5 hour movie. With a boring as hell plot, no payoff whatsoever, and a waste of $11.25. Its arguably the worst movie I have ever paid to see in the theatres, and I go to a lot of movies. How passionate am I that you save your money? I signed up for an IMDb account so I could write this review.

It is extremely well acted. Both Isaac & Chastain deserve all the praise they will receive. But this movie sucks.

If you are expecting a Gangster Movie you will surely be disappointed, but if you still want to see it get used to Isaac's character routinely saying "I'm not a gangster" as he proves it by not doing anything that would make you confuse him with Michael Carleone.
40 out of 72 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Good, slow-moving story of a NY businessman trying to make it honestly.
TxMike8 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The story is set in 1981 New York, presumably because that particular year was one of the most violent. Thankfully this movie does NOT focus so much on the violence. Instead it focuses on the businessman trying to make a go of it honestly and expand his business.

Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, who looks a lot like a young Pacino in "The Godfather" and acts a lot like a mafia don might. Always calm even when things get tense, and always focusing on the goal. As he explains at one point the path may need to change with changing circumstances but the goal remains the same.

His goal was to buy an older property to expand his business, primarily supplying heating oil to customers all over the city. With the new property he will have more storage, so he can buy when the prices are low in the summer, and sell at higher prices in the winter. He also can off-load directly from the water, saving the cost on intermediate transportation.

So as he is striking a deal with an older Jewish family that owns the property he puts down a briefcase loaded with cash, one million dollars for 40% down. The deal was he would pay the remainder, 1.5 million, within 30 days. he has friends and a loyal bank, it shouldn't be too much problem.

But problems do arise. Rogue thieves are holding up drivers and stealing his heating oil. Enough that it is cutting into his cash by over $200,000 when it is all totaled up. Plus one of his roughed up drivers, new immigrant Elyes Gabel as Julian, decides on his own to carry a gun. When he is confronted again he starts shooting, then runs away. No one dies, the truck is not stolen, but now the company is getting a bad reputation. The loyal bank backs out.

I see from some comments that some viewers couldn't really get into this story. But it is a good story, told very well, and a good movie for those who have patience. All the acting is good and it comes across authentically.

Jessica Chastain is the wife and business partner, Anna Morales. She does some "cooking of the book" that even her husband is unaware of. And Albert Brooks with a wig to give him longer straight hair is the lawyer, Andrew Walsh.

I enjoyed it, a fine movie.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The consequences of violence
movies-by-db12 June 2015
So I read a lot of complaints about the movie being slow and missing tension and violence. Why? Because of the title? Do the viewers nowadays pick their movies just on title and trailer?

The title is perfect: This movie is all about violence. Every single moment in this film is a consequence of- or triggered by violence. Even all the news broadcasts on the radio are about violence. Abel's business is, as he says "in a rough patch". There are good years and bad years and this one is a particularly bad one. The fact that the movie doesn't feature a lot of violence makes it an even better one as the threat of it is constantly palpable.

As for the tension: my god, what tension did I feel. I won't describe moments, but one particular chase sequence had me biting my nails, and I haven't done that in a very long time. There is constant tension in almost every scene and almost unbearable tension in some. And of course throughout the whole film you keep asking yourself; is he that honest, will he yield, or will he even snap. Oscar Isaac's role as Abel is written and played out so well I can understand the comparisons to Pacino's Michael Corleone in the Godfather. Hell you could even mention the two films in one breath. It has a great classic feel to it, though this is much smaller and more intimate.

A modern classic like: "We own the night" by James Gray or the recent "The Drop" by Michael R. Roskam. Beautiful slow burning masterpieces. This film will stay with me for quite a while. I'll put it away, wait for a rainy day somewhere in winter and experience it all over again. 8/10
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Isaaaaaac serves it up!!!
meeza7 July 2015
Writer-Director J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year" is not the most violent picture I have ever seen; in fact, there is not that much violence in it. But that is irrelevant, because Chandor's picture is not much about violence, but on entrepreneur competitive tactics to supersede competitors; even though some of the players involved here do bring violence in the mix. The industry that is showcased here is the oil truck corporation. The year here is 1981 and the city, none other than New York, who in that year there was a myriad of violent acts happening in the Big Apple. Rising Star Oscar Isaac stars as Abel Morales, a oil truck company entrepreneur who is in the process of finalizing a slick deal which will bring his company to the top of the game in the New York Oil Truck market. The problem is that Abel's drivers are being thrown and assaulted in their trucks by a competitor or some other entity. Jessica Chastain co-stars as Anna Morales, Abel's wife who is pretty much the boss of that relationship, and she is the mother f*cker who runs that place. Chandor does drive "A Most Violent Year" in slow mode, but somehow it was the proper gear to propel this story. His screenplay was solid but not even close as one of the best in "a most competitive year" of terrific screenplays in the film year of 2014. However, it was Issac's money starring performance as Abel was what most paramount of "A Most Violent Year"; no doubt the Morales character will remind you of kinder Michael Corleone, but with the same firepower of topping his competitors. Chastain was sound, but a bit underused; and that is never a good thing when we are talking about one of the greatest, if not the greatest, actress working today. I also enjoyed Albert Brooks' showy work as the Morales' lawyer Andrew Walsh; a role that Chandor probably wrote for Brooks' to drive it home; which he did. "A Most Violent Year" is not for everyone, some will find it too slow, but in the end you should set a date with it. **** Good
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
It's Like the Godfather, Except that Nothing Happens.
stevendecastro14 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
JC Chandor has hit it out of the park before, with Margin Call and with All Is Lost. Inside Llewyn Davis was also a beautiful effort. So I guess that means that he gets the benefit of the doubt for any of his future work. He'll need it for this.

This movie falls into the laudable sub-trend in Hollywood to try to depart from their lockstep story-driven editing and formula-driven writing. That's what the movie is not. What it is, isn't much.

The movie is about an honest business owner in a syndicate-controlled industry being tempted into criminal acts to protect his business, and to make matters worse, he has the same hairstylist as Al Pacino in the first Godfather. So after this setup for the protagonist who is inexorably driven into a life of crime, this movie breaks that cliché, and instead of giving into temptation, the guy just passively allows stuff to happen. Even the idea of waiting for the cops to pick up the gangster who has been harassing his business, instead of allowing him to escape, is too much of an active role for our protagonist.

The moral of the story is that non-proactive nice guys win in the end. As for the movie, I don't think that everyone will be awake by the end.
28 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
The Pacing of a M. Night Shyamalan Film
jamdifo19 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I am not a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, as I find his movies move tortuously slow. J. C. Chandor (director) is like Shyamalan in the crime drama department. This movie just moved soooo slow. It seemed to have a 10 hour run time. This movie dragged bigtime. I didn't care about any of the characters, and felt zero suspense/drama thru out the film.

This movie reminds me of the horror movie "The Blair Witch Project". In that movie, you kept thinking something was going to happen to the characters, but very little does. This movie is the same way, very little action/violence occur. (though you keep expecting that it will pick up) When it does occur, its done so poorly you just don't care. At least Blair Witch Project was loaded with suspense (on the first viewing, it doesn't hold up well on subsequent viewings after knowing what happens).

People will get reeled in to watch this movie because of the title (I did). But this movie won't be remembered 5 years down the road. Not one above average line, no interesting character, not one half descent scene. Some movies are good/great, some are so bad they are amusing/funny. But this is the worst kind of movie, a complete bore!
34 out of 63 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
1/10
A most boring year??
dgefroh18 January 2015
I'm puzzled and wondering how the IMDb ratings work, the consensus on this one if you go by the rating means it's an excellent movie and worth seeing. In reality, this movie is God awful. Talk about a snooze fest, this one is sooo slow, and sooo boring, and sooo tedious that you'll need a box of toothpicks to keep you eyes open watching this so called or should I say highly rated movie. The story line screams "who cares", there isn't one moment in the entire movie where you will really give a crap. Yeah I guess the acting was good, if you go to movies strictly to see good acting well maybe this one is for you, but if you are like most movie goers who want a story worth paying attention to, well then this sleep producing dog must be avoided. So to recap- it's terrible, boring, slow, no story line, and did I mention a complete waste of time? Avoid this movie, you can thank me later.
51 out of 100 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
The Most Slowest Year Ever
FilmMan474 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
by the time this film ended i questioned myself that there is too much violence in the world happening around every day each year so why would anyone pick just out one year and make a film on it now it does not even matter whether is the story of this film is based on real life or not this certainly is a project that apes godfather series & tries to be cinematic as hard it can be but fails miserably makes the viewer wonder that both years 1981 the story of this film is set in & 2014 the release date of this film appear to be the most slowest years in history ever.

this film is like a never ending episode of some late night TV show extended for no reason people are already comparing Oscar Isaac with Al Pacino,Robert De Niro i say how dare they those guys are legends this film does not even come close one bit to any classic out there.

J.C Chandor's direction is awful too dark he tried to blend Little Christopher Nolan with a touch of David Fincher themes here that does not work at all the project looks like it was running without a script the center of attention are characters here mostly and not the actual story this is where it falls short.

The Plot:Ny 1981 Abel Morales is going through rough times he is doing everything he can for the family and business in the most violent year ever.

from oil tankers to business the topic was going fine until Abel's wife leaves no chance in making a mess out of his life then she is buying guns shooting deers on the road etc later on crime & drama starts with most boring dialogs ever written and climax is hilarious when a guy shoots himself in the chin Anna is the only one who screams are reacts so hard on it but the entire time before this she was behaving like the most inhumane person ever.

The Cast:Oscar Issac is the only one seems to be taking his role seriously he did a great job he was calm and smooth in every scene he appears,Jessica Chastain is annoying as hell plus that fake blond wig Scarlett Johanson would have been a better choice for this role.

i totally agree with critics and some film buffs who saw slow pace does not mean its some sort of masterpiece by any definition,i never expected any action at all but at least the narrative should movie a bit but sadly it just goes nowhere all those gang members & cops are wasted.

this film is worth checking out only of Oscar Issac he is the best performer here not for a moment he will let the audience walk away from the hall.

Overall A Most Violent Year is one of the most boring dull and unexciting films of 2014 my rating is 3/10.Below Average
18 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
The Best film of 2014!
oscarxp2510 February 2015
What is surprising about "A Most Violent Year" is that is absent from the seven nominees for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards. It is a shocker because whomever wins the award for best film at The National Board of Review usually wins best picture at the Academy Awards or at least scores a nomination. This film failed to do so on both accounts. The question is why? Is it boring? Did the Academy think that the themes of corruption, crime, and business, all set in the dangerous times of New York City in the 80's, wouldn't resonate with today's public? It would be interesting to hear why they didn't grant it an nomination because it is truly a magnificent picture.

Oscar Issac stars as Abel Morales, a business man who owns a oil company, who has finally reaches the big time. His wife, Anna Morales, played by the ever so beautiful and reliable Jessica Chastain, is right by his side to celebrate everything that he has earned. Since the film takes place in New York City, during the 1980's, which was far from the safe and beautiful place it is today, crime is rampant. One of his trucks, which is carrying 6,000 gallons of fuel is stolen. At first, it seems like a one time thing but as the movie progresses, more and more bad circumstances start to happen to Abel's company and personal life. All the awhile Lawrence, who works for the police department, is investigating all his numbers since half the businesses around the city have ripped people off. Abel tries to deal with this like a gentleman, but Anna will do anything to stay afloat and constantly criticizes his manhood for not taking charge and going full force on those who are threatening both his business and family. Can good old fashioned decency even exist in business, especially during this time?

Oscar Issac carries this film effortlessly. Abel struggles with doing what is right and what has to be done throughout the entire film. Issac shows this struggle through every grimace, frown, and wrinkled eyebrow. It is a quiet performance but shouldn't be overlooked like it unfairly has been. J.C. Candor, who wrote and directed the film, gives so many poignant and suave lines to Abel. This is a man who you can tell has truly worked for what he has earned, he wasn't given it. Many of the scenes are him conversing and cutting deals with the people around him. Many movie goers love the gun shots and violence of crime dramas, which this film does have, but that life isn't all about those choices. Characters like Abel are smarter and above those choices. His motto is that the best way to stay unnoticed is not to make noise. That motto is not shared by his wife who is played by Chastain. This is an actress who is becoming more and more better with each role she plays. I like to keep the word "I" out of my reviews but I think she really is the next Meryl Streep. Every role she takes on she knocks out of the park. Here, she is cunning, sly, and fierce. Yes, she did have the fierceness in 2012's "Zero Dark Thirty", but here she seems more frightening. Chastain plays Anna like a lioness protecting her cubs. She is incredibly believable as a east coast mafia girl. The accent, the temper, the guilt, the sex appeal..she has it all here. It is an amazing performance that adds even more to the level that Issac reaches. Both of these actors attended the famous acting school Julliard together and, it has been said, that they dreamed of working together one day. Well, they got their wish and the results are out of this world. Let's hope they do this again with the level of skill they achieve here. The performances are worth the price of admission.

J.C. Chandor's last feature, "All is Lost", was about a man, played by Robert Redford stranded at sea. The film was Redford all by himself for the entire length of the film fighting to survive. The film divided the people. Some thought it was boring, while others thought it was brilliant. Chandor likes to to tell his time with his storytelling so those of you who are allergic to a slow building story should stay clear of this film. For those who don't mind these kind of films know that films like these usually reward patience. A car chase in the film is thrilling and well shot. Another scene shows a truck driver running for his life from the police and those who are trying to harm him. The foot chase is beautiful staged and perfectly photographed. The cinematography is simple, but adds so much to the straightforwardness of the story. The colors are very basic which adds to the the vintage style it achieves in capturing. In moments where the thrills come through the dialogue driven scenes, Alex Ebert's haunting score heightens the intensity of those scenes even more. It is an all around masterpiece in film making that is captained by Chandor. There is so much morality in this film that Chandor brings out through his direction and masterfully written script.

"A Most Violent Year" has been unfairly forgotten by the most award circuit. Many people who go to the movies always defend their unnoticed films by saying, "who cares about critics, what do they know"? Well, people who love film also feel like that sometimes. This is a beautiful film that is wise, cool, and intense in its own subtle way. It is a damn shame it has been unappreciated. It is one of the best films of the year.
17 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Sympathy for the Devil
dangent28028 January 2015
J. C. Chandor's, A Most Violent Year, is the second of two films released in the past week, the first being Ex Machina, that include Star Wars -bound Oscar Isaac, who is slowly becoming one of my favourite actors. I first noticed Isaac when watching Inside Llewyn Davis, yet after looking at his back catalogue, it's surprising to see the wide range of films he has been a part of, such as Drive and two Ridley Scott efforts; Robin Hood and Body of Lies respectively, all of which are pretty fab, particularly, Drive. Similarly, Jessica Chastain also seems to be in films that particularly appeal to me, such as Zero Dark Thirty, and most recently, Interstellar, yet the third cog in this particular wheel, director J, C. Chandor, hasn't won me over, yet, with his last effort, All Is Lost, not enthralling me in the slightest. Still, two out of three ain't bad.

The film is set during the latter stages of 1981 New York, a time in which, statistically, crime rates reached an all time high, particularly those consisting of a rather violent ilk, and tells the story of Abel Morales, who attempts to expand his business by purchasing a new, and valuable, piece of land. In the background however, his oil trucks are repeatedly being stolen and sold on, whilst the DA, played by Selma's, David Oyelwo, is running an investigation into potential illegal activity within his empire. Within my review for Ex Machina, I stated Isaac's performance was, "top notch," and the same can be said for his performance in this film, with his portrayal of a character, who, although the title suggests otherwise, attempts to stay within the boundaries of the law despite all of the ongoing threats to him and his business, being simply brilliant.

Adding to this brilliance, is Jessica Chastain, who plays the role of Anna Morales superbly, and who, in contrast to her husband, is no stranger to violence thanks to her father's gangster background. The chemistry between the two leads is explosive, and helps develop the way in which each character changes throughout the course of the movie, particularly Abel, who transforms from an almost reluctant hero into a no-nonsense hard-man. These strong performances help keep the film going, particularly when it is at its' weakest, with the rather shallow plot taking a while to kick in, and just slightly stretching its' two-hour run-time.

Overall, A Most Violent Year, is J. C. Chandor's best film to date, helped particularly by two terrific performances from Isaac and Chastain. Although its' rather simple plot is stretched into the film's run-time, the film is an entertaining and gripping crime drama that can stand strong next to other films in the same genre.

Overall Score: 8/10
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Really Well-Made Film. Not for the Fast n' Furious Crowd
rddj0517 September 2015
Once again, Chandor gives us a well-written, well-acted, beautifully photographed film, on a relatively small budget, that winds up being incredibly watchable. I would say he's done this with all 3 of his films. None of them were action-packed film, but that all had a truth and reality to them, that really pulled me in.

I've read some reviews on here that complain that the film was too slow for them or that it was "boring." Look, despite it's title (which may have mislead a lot of viewers going in), this film is not for the Fast and Furious or Transformers crowd. It's not even for people who loved the blood-soaked Scarface.

It portrays violence and the fear of running a business in NYC in the early 80s, in a very real way. And it captures the early 80s look flawlessly.

This film may, however, be be for people who loved films like The Godfather or DePalma's Dressed to Kill. Not only does Oscar Issac seem to channel bits of Michael Corleone, but the film is lit and photographed in a very similar manner to the way that Gordon Willis shot The Godfather. Also, for those who think there was a ton of action and killing in the Godfather, outside of the final few minutes, there really isn't. Though very different films, what pulls you into the Godfather and Dressed to Kill is similar to what pulls you in here. Tension, honesty, a simple story, well told. No BS. No shooting up a whole town, with dead bodies falling everywhere, and then cutting to the next scene at dinner.

In real life, violence is frightening, finding a gun is frightening, shooting a gun at someone is frightening, having your life savings at stake, and the fear of losing everything you've worked for is frightening. Chandor pulls this all together to build tension, and it results in a very satisfying film.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed