Writer-director JC Chandor follows up his highly assured first two films, riveting financial thriller Margin Call and gripping survival drama All Is Lost, with A Most Violent Year, a magnificent period crime drama set in 1981 New York.
Oscar Isaac is superb as the film’s ambivalent hero, Abel Morales, a self-made Hispanic immigrant businessman striving to build up his domestic fuel-oil company and keep his integrity in a murky world. Yet no sooner has he staked the future of his business on a risky deal (buying a Brooklyn waterfront terminal) than a wave of hijackings hits his delivery tankers.
There’s less violence than you would expect, given the film’s title, but as Abel seeks to come out on top while sticking to the ‘right path’ the scenes of moral suspense prove just as breathtaking as the episodes of physical jeopardy. Chandor’s feel for his story’s scruffy, sleazy milieu is spot on, too, while Isaac gets excellent support from Jessica Chastain, unexpectedly steely as Abel’s hard-as-nails wife, Albert Brooks, as his slyly affable lawyer, and David Oyelowo, as the canny assistant district attorney digging into his affairs.
A Most Violent Year is released on DVD & Blu-ray by Icon Home Entertainment.
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