Review: A Most Violent Year

Writer-director J C Chandor’s third feature may well be the poster child of the critic versus audience dilemma. There is no question that this is a qualitatively good film, stylistically strong and tonally gritty, reveling in the 1981 New York City setting. The cast is outstanding, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain devouring the lead roles while the likes of Albert Brooks and David Oyelowo give scenery-eating performances in supporting roles. Yet this is the sort of movie that leaves people hating critics.

Isaac plays Abel Morales, a self-made heating oil tycoon. Morales attempts to bring competition to a deeply corrupt industry, facing regular violent opposition and the temptation to bend, if not break, his own fierce ethical code as he attempts to close a deal that will make or break him.

For all its intense quality it is not actually intense, despite the immensity of skill on display this is not a big film. Rather, A Most Violent Year is neither great escapism nor captivating exploration. This film seems to exist only to show off, not as an actual show, and it is very hard to recommend as anything other than an exhibition piece.

With his previous films – Margin Call and All Is Lost – Chandon wrapped immense skill in big storytelling. With A Most Violent Year, the story is the only thing that doesn’t shine.

‘A Most Violent Year’ Movie Times