Film Review: A Most Violent Year

Monday 23 March 2015 by

A Most Violent Year, Film

This film might have slipped under the radar for many, but A Most Violent Year is one of those quietly impressive films of 2015.

Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, the head of a family as he tries to keep his business afloat in New York during 1981 – the most dangerous year of the city’s history.  For a film about a violent city, this doesn’t have an awful lot of action, and it only speeds up about 90 minutes in when things start to come to a head. Morales is from a less than clean background, but is trying to make it straight, despite his wife (played by the incredible Jessica Chastain) and several other people trying to get him to do otherwise.

The quality of the cast says more than the premise of the film, with the likes of David Oyewolo, Albert Brooks and Glenn Fleshler in supporting roles. But it is Isaac and Chastain that hold it together. Their charisma, together and separately, is palpable, and they drive the tension to breaking point.

Unlike Whiplash and the other films I’ve recently watched, this didn’t blow me away. It’s impressive, purely from the acting perspective, but as a premise it felt weak and didn’t hold up to its end of the bargain when it promises a most violent year. Rather it is a series of misdemeanours and fights and lots of serious conversations.

In fact, if it weren’t for Chastain and Isaac leading the charge, it would have simply been a quiet film rather than a quietly impressive. In fact, apart from the soundtrack (also brilliant), this was a film that failed to inspire. It would have been better if Isaac’s character really had turned to the dark side an embraced the mob lifestyle. Instead, we are left with a half-hearted film with quality turns from the actors that fail to move the script on from the mediocre.

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