In 1981, an ambitious immigrant living the American dream has to fight to protect his family and his business in New York City’s most violent year in history.The winter of 1981 was statistically the most violent year for New York City. At this time, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), an immigrant who has made a life for himself in America, finds everything he has worked for under attack from rivals and those apparently in charge of justice in the city. He struggles to keep on top of everything that is being thrown at him whilst staying within the constraints of the law. Meanwhile, Abel also owes money to some big people, and with the interest currently being paid to him by the law, no one will loan him the money to pay them off. Abel’s wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), offers to ask her father for help, but the business man is intent on sticking to his morals, no matter what.
A Most Violent Year is one of the many films that I had been meaning to watch for a long time, so when I discovered that it was on Netflix last weekend, I made it my business to see it. I could remember having seen a review of the film when it was out in the cinemas a couple of years ago saying that it was a very slick gangster drama, so it was a title that had been stuck in my mind since then. Upon finally sitting down and watching it, I have to say that I was very impressed.
There were two brilliant lead performances here. Oscar Isaac was on another level as Abel, and I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that, for me, his portrayal of the businessman was reminiscent of Michael Corleone from the one and only Godfather trilogy, yet didn’t feel at all like a cheap imitation. Jessica Chastain was every bit his equal as Anna, who proved exactly why she is one of my favourite actresses. Her character was such a huge part of the film, and I feel like she represented the battle that Abel fought every day in the way that she tended to take extreme action first and then think much later on, as opposed to his very collected way of weighing up the situation before dealing with it. As I’ve already said, both of these performances were terrific, complimenting each other completely, and also going way under the radar with so many people.
The story here is one that is really quite typical of the gangster genre, but as mentioned before, the film managed to present this story in a way that it didn’t feel as though it was ripping off any of the legendary films that came before it. It is plain as day that A Most Violent Year takes much of it’s inspiration from films such as The Godfather, however it maintains a sense of it’s own originality throughout, which is what I though was so great. A fine example of this can be seen with the very active role that Anna takes in the business, which is not usually the case with the women in these types of film.
All in all, A Most Violent Year was a good choice to watch last weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was made so wonderful by the captivating performances that led it. It was also nice to see the nods to other films in the genre that had so clearly shaped how this turned out. It is a film I’d recommend to people for the simple fact that it was very entertaining despite some of it’s more serious themes, some of which are more relevant than ever in today’s climate. So, what are you waiting for?
Make sure you check out my post about the upcoming Play To The Whistle Blogathon if you missed it yesterday!