A Most Violent Year. 2014. USA. Directed by JC Chandor. 125 min.
1981, New York City. The scourge of crime was a daily reality, and the sin of complicity with a corrupt and violent culture was a constant temptation. Many lurid narratives have been harvested from this era, but nothing in recent memory comes close to evoking the pressure-cooker times like JC Chandor’s remarkable third feature. Abel Morales, as portrayed by Oscar Isaac, is not only the would-be moral center of a city gone to hell, but an instant cinematic icon on the level of Michael Corleone or Popeye Doyle. His struggle to stay straight is challenged by both those who would see him succeed, like his firecracker of a wife (Jessica Chastain) and sage lawyer (Albert Brooks), and by those with whom he battles (Alessandro Nivola, David Oyelowo). Since his debut in New Directors/New Films 2011, Chandor has demonstrated a unique talent for tantalizing, slow-burn stories and bravura performances. This picture spectacularly furthers that trajectory. Courtesy of A24 Films.