A Most Violent Year

Year: 2014
Production Co: Before the Door Pictures
Director: J C Chandor
Producer: J C Chandor
Writer: J C Chandor
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo

It's a very classy and stylish production, but is it an interesting story? It's about a guy who runs a heating oil business in New York in the early 80s who finds himself in financial difficulty but is determined not to resort to the illegal and heavy handed means available to him.

In other words, it's about a character not going through an arc but starting out good and decent and fighting the world every step to stay that way.

That sounds like an interesting story itself depending on the world he's up against but again, it's a guy who runs a heating oil business. It seems as exciting as a landscape gardener trying to resist buying a load of bricks he knows has come off the back of a truck. There's a little bit of violence and threat in it, but still...

After watching it I was trying to think of common threads with the rest of J C Chandor's work and whether Margin Call and All Is Lost had any similarities to this film. All I have to go on is what I've heard and read in other reviews – that there are shades of Hamlet and the nature of power corrupting absolutely, even if Able (Oscar Isaac) manages to resist it throughout.

His Lady MacBeth is his hot wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), who has family mob ties and wishes Abel would use them in the interest of their business and ultimately their family. In a world where every other operator is playing foul and even the federal government supposed to be protecting Abel is coming after him with fraud indictments, it hardly seems worth being honest and upstanding.

But he's is determined to stay that way no matter how many hoods they send to his front door with guns in the middle of the night, how many of his trucks they hijack or how many veiled threats his competitors sneer at him.

We meet him closing the deal on a large new premises that will give his company a much-needed chance to expand, but no sooner does he sign and hand over the deposit than everything starts going wrong as the feds close in and more of his trucks are held up, their contents stolen.

It's more of a morality tale than a thriller and more of a character piece than a drama. The period detail is perfect and everyone wears the period – from the clothes to the socio-political mores – of the time beautifully. I just couldn't help wondering when it was going to really be about something.

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