Movie Review: "A Most Violent Year" directed by J. C. Chandor

A perfect choice for crime and thriller fans. Photo from Rotten Tomatoes.  

The year is 1981. It is one of the most crime-ridden years in New York City. A hard-working husband and father, Abel Morales, manages his own heating oil company, but ongoing problems keep hurting his business.

Sly robbers refuse to quit hijacking his delivery trucks, which obviously endangers his employees. Then, they sell his oil. Burglars threaten this gentleman at his new home. Other heating oil companies may also have a critical part in these crimes. One of his employees jeopardizes the future of this heating oil company after another truck hijacking.

Abel abides by his integrity as his professional life faces uncertainty. Yet, he realizes that he must stand up for himself and his family against the prevalent corruption that drives his competitors. A Most Violent Year is a unique combination of a period piece and a gangster film that stays riveting from start to finish.

Oscar Isaac brings discipline and clarity to the highly pressured, Abel. He understands the gravity of his character’s problems with ease and humility. Jessica Chastain balances out his character as Abel’s street-smart wife, Anna Morales. She goes out of her way to protect her family during these unfortunate circumstances. Anna buys a gun for her safety and carefully reviews the company books and records.

Whenever they discuss and argue about their troubling circumstances, their practical skills emerge and naturally develop, which strengthens both their individuality and marriage. This is why the main couple endures a difficult season for the heating oil business.

The impassioned performances of both Isaac and Chastain bolster such an engaging story. They bring more naturalism to A Most Violent Year without exaggerated action. The tensest conversations between family or enemies are just as striking as the abrupt moments of violence.

Isaac and Chastain should collaborate in more movies together, as also evidenced in the 2021 miniseries, Scenes from a Marriage. This movie is an underappreciated gem that deserves more of your time and attention.

Here’s the trailer for A Most Violent Year:

A Most Violent Year is available for streaming on Kanopy and borrowing on DVD from the Jefferson County Library Cooperative, including all 16 active Birmingham Public Library locations.

By William Anthony | Librarian Ⅰ, Citizen Services at Central