Movie Review: A Most Violent Year (2014) Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain

A most violent year still

J.C. Chandor delivers again, Oscar Isaac resembles young Al Pacino from Godfather

Contrary to the title and poster, it is neither violent nor romantic but definitely worth watching, especially fans of the crime drama genre. Written and directed by J.C. Chandor (All is Lost, Margin Call), who has yet to deliver a lousy movie (not to mention that each one is of a different genre), A Most Violent Year is set during the winter of 1981 where highly successful immigrant Abel Morales attempts to leave his illegal ways and thug connections behind while expanding his heating oil business during one of the most crime-filled years in New York City’s history.

Again, Oscar Isaac (The Two Faces of January, Inside Llewyn Davis) is not nominated for an Oscar but his strong performance here certainly deserves to be praised as he commands every scene with his charm and powerful presence as Abel Morales, who’s calm and composed but constantly challenged to a point that he might lose his cool and give up on trying to go clean. I’m very sure I’m not the only one who’s finds that his character and appearance resembling Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972) played by the young Al Pacino.

Oscar Isaac Al Pacino A Most Violent Year Godfather

The storyline, too, is actually similar to The Godfather 3‘s, but despite having familiar plot and themes, the film is intriguingly driven by Abel’s ambitious plan and honourable intention to continue growing his reputable heating oil empire without resorting to violence or any further illegal methods despite being robbed, attacked and investigated when he’s trying to close a risky make-or-break deal, which if he fails, he loses everything. J.C. Chandor manages to engage the audience stand behind the character while stirring up dilemmas to provoke thoughts. What would you do if you were in Abel’s shoes? The dilemma becomes heavier when the lives of your family is being threatened as well.

Although the lack of screen time, Jessica Chastain’s (Interstellar, Zero Dark Thirty) Golden Globe-nominated supporting performance as Abel’s tough and family-protective but reckless wife (and the mother of his children) effectively increases the pressure and sense of urgency into the protagonist’s situation, frequently demanding Abel to man up and do whatever it takes to solve the problems. I was so engaged that I was literally hoping that the bitch won’t do anything stupid to screw up Abel’s clear plan to clean success.

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Many non-fans of crime dramas may be skeptical to watch this film due to the genre’s typical nature of being slow-paced with mostly long scenes of dry mafia conversations, which most general audience wouldn’t find exciting, but without a doubt, this one’s definitely more engaging, gripping, and realistic than most of the others in recent years. I couldn’t find a single plot hole, everything makes sense with small details and reasoning meticulously tallied. The impact of the music may seem non-existent but the 1981 New York winter setting and cinematography look beautiful. Bravo yet again, J.C., A Most Violent Year may be the best crime drama of 2014.

What I would’ve named the film: “A Most Unviolent Crime Drama”

Malaysia censorship: I didn’t watch this one at a local cinema but there aren’t any sequences that are too violent, there’s no nudity or sex and none of the characters use drugs excessively. But knowing how inconsistent how beloved film censorship board is, they might have required the kissing sequences to be chopped and the vulgarity to be muted.

Second opinion: (none, watched it alone)

Verdict: A most psychologically engaging crime drama.

Rating: 4 / 5

Edward Cullen stare vs Oscar Isaac A most violent year movie meme

A most violent year poster malaysia
Genre: Crime drama
Running Time: 125 minutes
Director-writer: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Malaysia Release Date: 15 January 2015
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: FilmNation Entertainment, Participant Media

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