A Most Violent Year
Leslie - wrote on 08/12/15
"A Most Violent Year" stars Oscar Isaac as the owner of the Standard Heating Oil home heating business. His wife and Chief Financial Officer is played by Jessica Chastain. Abel Morales (Isaac) after acquiring the company from Anna Morales’ (Chastain) father employs Andrew Walsh, played by Albert Brooks, as the company’s Lawyer. When rogue thugs violently hijack one of his trucks driven by Julian (Elyes Gabel), Abel is awakened to the possibility that other competing oil companies may be in cahoots. Abel’s suspicions are heightened when several more of his trucks are hijacked for the precious fuel and resold at other storage facilities. As if the hijackings weren’t enough of a distraction to his nascent enterprise, New York City District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo) hints to Abel that prosecution could be looming. According to the D.A., the Standard Heating Oil company has been breaking the law for years and he can prove it.
Abel begins to feel pressure from the Teamsters’ President Bill O‘Leary (Peter Gerety) to allow union drivers that work for Standard Heating Oil to carry guns. He offers to get them all permits and warns that without being armed, the Teamsters may not be able to supply Standard Heating Oil with drivers much longer. With thousands of gallons of fuel being stolen each week and drivers being sent to the hospital, Abel faces a moral crossroads. He cannot continue to allow his business to suffer financial losses. Arming drivers could put his business in legal jeopardy. Pending litigation may alienate the banks that bankroll his whole operation. What’s an oil boss to do? Abel’s choices will either catapult his business into the stratosphere of elite oil companies, or bring it crashing down into a fireball of a tumultuous ruin.
The most notable aspect of "A Most Violent Year," ironically, is the absence of excessive violence. Instead, conflict resolution through means other than violence establishes itself as the dominant theme of the film. The meticulous, savvy approach of Abel, clad in suit and tie and beige overcoat, is more precise than a laser and scope atop an automatic rifle. Abel possesses the exterior grit and guise of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone tempered by a resolve and restraint that is all of his own making. Abel gets his point across by the gesture of his hands, by the snarl of his top lip, and yes, though fortuitously, with gun in steadied and measured hand. At heart, Abel is content to be a businessman, not a gangster, and employ his most potent weapon at any given moment-killer charm.
J.C. Chandor’s direction avails "A Most Violent Year" a human quality. The film feels real and never overly fantastic or unbelievable. Alex Ebert’s score is manifold-as heavy or light as frozen snow crunched upon or first fallen. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain play out a volatile marriage with as much, if not more, anxiety and potential intensity as a slow gas leak. Cinematographer Bradford Young captures some of the most sweeping backdrops you’ll ever see in a film. The recreation of 1980’s New York is fun to watch in a phantasmagoria of some real and some imagined graffiti. Really, there’s nothing at all missing in "A Most Violent Year," except maybe, and most enjoyably, the use of unnecessary violence.