Film Review of "A Most Violent Year" by Robert Butler

Film Review of "A Most Violent Year" by Robert Butler - MPI News -  Motion Picture Institute in Troy MI - o-A-MOST-VIOLENT-YEAR-570

Riveting, exhilarating, and all around greatly scripted and acted, writer-director J.C. Chandor's new genre piece "A Most Violent Year" is an excellent crime drama. Perhaps the greatest American crime saga since David Cronenberg's 2007 explosive masterpiece "Eastern Promises". Set in the year 1981, which was one of the most crime driven yeas in American history with high accounts of robbery, rape, and murder. Very much in the vein of 1970's American cinema, "A Most Violent Year" feels like a film John Huston, or even Sidney Lumet would have directed.

Chandor is showing great promise as a filmmaker, he write and directors complex,taut, and tight original screenplays that aren't adaptations, remakes, or even based on "true stories". This is third feature, following after "Margin Call" (2011), and "All is Lost" (2013). This is the film I was hoping Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" was going to be. The film is grounded with great mood, and atmosphere, memorable characters, and the script offers timely and relevant themes of greed, power, and the co-opt of the American Dream that was also explored in Dan Gilroy's excellent "Nightcrawler", and Bennett Miller's eerie masterpiece "Foxcatcher".

The story focuses on Abel Morales (Oscar Issac,), who runs a natural gas business that specializes in heating oil. Saga begins with Abel opening a property deal on the Hudson River with his accountant Andrew Walsh (Albert Brooks) with some wealthy businessman. Abel puts down a substantial payment, and if he doesn't come up with the entire sum he could lose his property and deposit. The skyrocketed crime rate is impacting Abel's business as his oil trucks continue to get carjacked and stealing his trucks, and beating up his drivers, and even salesman.

On top of that, New York City D.A. assistant (David Oyelowo) is leading a charge of tax invasion, and fraud against his business, this only causes more problems for Abel. All this causes his bank to back out of the loan that can sustain the rest of his payment to buy the property. Abel is left trying to raise the rest of the money himself by going to his competitors, and he tries to puzzle together who's exactly behind the hijackings of his trucks. Abel struggles with internal conflict, moral complications, and maintaining the American Dream.

The characterization by Chandor here is great because we are only given small glimpses into Abel's background. It's clear he is an immigrant who worked hard to rise to the top, and he separates himself  from his inherent culture, traits, and roots. Abel also wants to run his business as clean as possible, but his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster, and it's revealed they inherited the business from her father, and they are left paying for the companies sins.

All around, it's rewarding to receive great American filmmaking like this. With mature writing that is greatly dramatic and staged, and mesmerizing characters, and first-rate moments that involve chase sequences, and dramatic tension by a stellar cast. Chastain and Isaac are superb here, and both of these talents are proving to be great actors that continue to take complex roles. "A Most Violent Year"  all around is a masterful study of corruption, and how something with the best intentions ends up getting captured by power and greed. 

Rating **** out of ****

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