1981, New York City, crime was at large, boasting the unsavoury record of the most violent year to date. Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) & Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) star in this gritty crime drama which completely re-invents the genre and changes your stereotypical ways of judging a character in this genre. Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, a Latin American who runs a business that supplies fuel to other companies which is a big and competitive business. Eagar to follow the right way and not be swayed by corruption and greed, Abel struggles to keep his business afloat due to the truck drivers that are driving his fuel are being hi-jacked by unknown criminals and abuse the drivers. Having these problems arise, Abel refuses to back down to requests from his peers to give his drivers the right to carry a gun on their trucks to defend themselves. Not only is he losing money at his business, but he is being preyed on by District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo) who is sniffing around the business hoping to bring him down on countless charges of tax fraud.
Helped along the way by his wife Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) who is in the form of her life, sticks by her husband’s side; but even a devout wife struggles without being forced by the dirty air of corruption in New York City. ‘A Most Violent Year’ completely re-asses your views on these characters; from the get go, you see a Latin American trying to achieve the American dream and a mob boss daughter (Jessica Chastain) and you instantly assume that they are criminals. J.C Chandor, still relatively a newbie to the scene, only his third directorial feature, he shouts his case as to why he has been snubbed yet again his nomination for Best Director at this year’s Oscar’s. The American filmmaker and screenwriter is obviously massively influenced of the great 70’s and 80’s films that he most likely grew up with and was inspired by. ‘Serpico’ & ‘Scarface’ come to mind especially when comparing the similarities to the story of ‘A Most Violent Year’. The corruption and the urge to fight it and be a good man in New York is the resemblance towards ‘Serpico’ and the Latin American trying to achieve the American dream is familiar to ‘Scarface’, albeit both characters are on different ends of the spectrum; but its Oscar Isaac who is the biggest connection towards these films, and it’s his similarities to a young Al Pacino.
Oscar Isaac delivers his most compelling and powerful performance yet and continues to impress on the leading scene after his marvellous performance in the Coen Brothers ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ back in 2013. It’s an incredible turn from this actor, to which his first real noticeable film was a small role in ‘Body of Lies’ back in 2008 and is now one of the most talked about actors on the scene, and will continue to grow after his confirmation of him starring in the new ‘Star Wars’ film and the upcoming ‘X-Men’ film. ‘A Most Violent Year’ has shot towards the top of my list for best films so far this year and personally, it’s a massive shock that this film has not been nominated whatsoever at the Academy Awards. A compelling story line and superb acting from Oscar Isaac & Jessica Chastain help give the film 5 out of 5 stars.