A Most Violent Year Review: An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Photo Credit:http://www.blackfilm.com/read/2014/11/first-clip-for-a-most-violent-year/a-most-violent-year-8/

A Most Violent Year is the most Godfather like movie that isn’t technically about gangsters that I can ever remember seeing. The lighting, costumes, setting, all of it contributes to a film that tries and mostly succeeds to invoke the feel of one of the greatest films ever made.

Set in the winter of 1981 in New York City, we follow up-and-coming oil mogul Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) as they navigate one of the most dangerous periods in the city’s history. Abel’s trucks are continually getting stolen by armed men who may or may not be working for one of his company’s competitors.

Abel’s investigation in the matter and his dealings with the other oil moguls in the city make up the crux of the film. Their meetings feel like the meetings in The Godfather between the different families. But what makes A Most Violent Year more than just a rehash of that classic is that Abel truly doesn’t want this to be a gangster story.

Isaac may have perfected Al Pacino’s eyebrow movements and cold stare from those films, but the point of the film ends up being that this is a man forced into the gangster world that is always trying to claw his way out. He wants to run a clean business, but he has to take care of some things first.

Chastain rounds out another busy year with a committed and powerful performance. She’s no bystander like Diane Keaton was in the Godfather films. Chastain appears to have achieved an elegance only the best actors are able to, slipping into role after role and dazzling us every time. She may very well be the next Meryl Streep. In A Most Violent Year, she is the yin to Isaac’s yang, masterfully immersing herself in the world the story presents.

With such great characters and tense scenes, it’s a shame that the film doesn’t make business talk about oil any more interesting than it sounds. This is a great story, but there are a few too many scenes where characters explain, in great detail, the goings on of your average oil supplier. While it contributes to the authenticity of the film, it does harm the pacing, severely at times. It’s hard not to wish at times that such a well-acted and well-made film could have been about something a little less dry. Or at least found a way around the heavy exposition littered throughout.

But A Most Violent Year still achieves a lot with a little. The performances all around are phenomenal while the aesthetic calls back to a classic. It’s a daring move, but it’s mostly pulled off. Mostly. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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