A Most Violent Year

WRITTEN BY: J. C. Chandor
DIRECTED BY: J. C. Chandor
STARRING: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks
RATING: 3.5 stars

Set in 1981, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is a heating oil business owner living in New York. Abel has just put down a large deposit for a prime piece of land, which will push his business to the forefront of the local industry, but the balance must be paid within 30 days or the deal will be off the table. Abel also has other problems that could affect his expansion plans. His trucks are being hijacked by thieves, so his drivers want to start carrying guns for protection, which is illegal. Meanwhile, the District Attorney (David Oyelowo) is investigating the company for shady activity.

This film has a Godfather feel to it, especially with Isaac looking like a young Al Pacino. Abel repeatedly comments that he is not a gangster and does not want to be perceived as such – and he is almost believable. But of course, with his wife Anna, (Jessica Chastain) being the daughter of a mob boss, he cannot quite escape that life. Chastain gets to show off some remarkable fashion from the 80's while also being a tough and strong woman. Anna has Abel's back throughout the entire film, even when they disagree on the right path to take. Isaac and Chastain also work well together. Oyelowo is solid, but is in the unfortunate situation of playing a mostly good guy who the audience does not want to win. You cannot help but support Abel despite his flaws and missteps. Elyes Gamble is also fantastic as the driver whose weakness threatens to derail everything. Every scene he appears in is pivotal to the plot's progression and his character is sympathetic. With a running time of two hours, A Most Violent Year lags in parts. Some scenes are also too predictable, but there are still plenty of suspenseful moments to keep you on the edge of your seat.