A Most Violent Year (2014)

I've been wanting to see A Most Violent Year for ages because of Jessica Chastain but I've been putting it off because, honestly, the film itself didn't really appeal me. It still didn't but I gave it a shot anyway because of Chastain and Oscar Isaac. 

The story is set in 1981 New York City and follows Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), a successful and ambitious immigrant, owner of a heating oil company who is planning to grab a bigger piece of New York's gas industry while dealing with very dangerous competitor and a hungry district attorney (David Oyelowo) who starts investigating Adel's company's financial records,. In the meantime, his wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), accuses him of not doing enough to protect his family.

The biggest, if not the only issue with A Most Violent Year is the story, it is simply too thin to fill a two hour film, it feels dragged, like a repetition of the same things over and over again, and there are subplots with the potential to be involving and complex but get lost in a glass of water. It's not compelling as a gangster story should be, and barely held my attention.

Just like the story, the characters too are never that compelling. They are quite stiff and one-dimensional, they don't have a backstory —because of this, in Abel's case, stoicism is often mistaken for naivety—, some of them are nothing but plot devices —at least they make things a bit more logical— and most of them are stereotypes. Because of this lazy writing, I found it very hard to care about any of them.

Somehow, the actors still manage to do a good job. Oscar Isaac gives a captivating performance as Abel Morales, a man who does not believe in violence and does not accept it as a mean and captures Abel's moral struggle very well. Jessica Chastain gives yet another magnetic performance as Anna, Abel's powerful wife and business partner —unfortunately, she doesn't get enough screen time to make a bigger impact. The chemistry between Isaac and Chastain is amazing and makes their relationship and its developments more interesting. David Oyelowo also does a good job as the district attorney who wants to bring Abel down.

As for the direction, J.C. Chandor does a great job at delivering an eighties look. From the dark and gloomy cinematography to the make-up and costumes, it really feels like being back in the eighties. He doesn't, however, really build much tension, and because of this, A Most Violent Year is ultimately very dull. Not to mention the utter lack of grittiness and violence —contrary to what one would assume from the title, the film ditches action for dialogue but unfortunately, it's not very sharp.


  1. Sad to hear it didn't work for you. I wanted to see it, mostly for Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, but maybe I'll skip it...

    1. You should still give it a chance, I guess, considering the amount of positive reviews it received. Especially if you like/love Oscar and Jessica.