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most_violent_year_ver3A MOST VIOLENT YEAR

Written and Directed by J.C. Chandor / Starring Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain and David Oyelowo

Abel Morales: I like to own the things I use.

With his third film, J.C. Chandor continues to prove that he is the most stealth writer/director working today. Like his debut, MARGIN CALL, and his last film, ALL IS LOST, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a distinct and challenging piece of filmmaking. And like his two previous films, it runs the risk of not being seen by nearly as many people who should. Chandor’s films, while both thought provoking and highly entertaining, always seem to remain under the radar with the general public. As long as that means he continues to make films this strong though, I don’t mind keeping him to myself a little while longer.

1981 New York was not a safe place. In fact, this particular period in New York’s history marks one of its most violent. This did not only apply to muggings in the park either. This violence spread from the street through the business world as well. As Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac, INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS), the son of an immigrant, strikes a deal to buy a new plot of land that will allow his gas and oil business to prosper in a way it never has before, Chandor shows us the flip side of growing success, with one of Abel’s truck drivers being torn from his truck and beaten to the point of hospitalization in the street. For one business to prosper in this way, others must begin to fade away, and no one has any intention of doing this. The attacks on Abel’s business begin to penetrate his family life as well, with threats to his children and wife, played with ferocity but Jessica Chastain. To make matters worse, Abel’s company is also being investigated by the District Attorney’s office (represented by SELMA’s David Oyelowo). He is getting it from every angle and yet he continues to insist on building his business, his eventual empire, with as much integrity is as physically possible. Fortunately for Abel, Isaac is electric when he fights back.


As Abel battles the existing gas and oil boys, many of whom are mafia fronted, it becomes clear that achieving the American dream is nowhere as easy as it was once promised. Now, while this is nothing new in terms of theme or revelation, Chandor makes his point still feel pertinent by grounding it in a very relatable, very tactile fashion. Backed by a brilliant, slick cinematic style, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR gives viewers an immigrant who is doing his best, his most noble best, to make a name for himself in America. The resistance he gets is not only difficult but dangerous and he has to walk a very fine morale line the entire while to make his ventures a success with no certainty of achieving that success. And by the time her gets to the end of that line, it is impossible to even see anymore. This is the true cost of the American dream, and in this particular case, it is also makes for a most excellent film.

4.5 sheep

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