Film Review: A Most Violent Year (2014)

Anti-hero might be the wrong word for Abel Morales. But he is a man who finds himself somewhat close to that label by turning his unrelenting need for business progression into a fight. A fight with an enemy he doesn’t know nor can he find. So his anger has no target. Anger which finds its way towards the wrong people.

It’s a unique problem and the narrative for A Most Violent Year is not one driven by action. Rather it is driven by the actions and reactions of the characters to the unravelling scenario they find themselves in. Our main character Abel is one of integrity. He has always done things by the books. And it would take a brave man to question that. But his ambition is so strong that it might just get the better of him. Mix in a financial struggle, a large increase in crime and family trouble and Abel becomes a lot less emotionally intact quickly.

If 1981 New York could be personified it would probably be Abel. The off white/orange tone with blue highlights sets the mood of NYC at pessimistic and keeps it there throughout. Just the intensity of events it homes ramps up as the story progresses into an uncontrollable state of affairs. As NYC gets worse as does Abel. And this downwards spiral is enthralling to watch.

As a thriller I believe J. C. Chandor has done a good job. Outstanding? Maybe not but I was entertained non the less. The performances were great throughout and the writing created three dimensional and varied characters. Which more than made up for the slow pacing early on and truly made me connect with and understand each individual character and the decisions they made. I won’t spoil the film but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. Which I feel left a little to be desired. But it was not enough for me to dislike the film at all.

I’ll certainly have to check out Chandor’s other work to see if it’s of similar quality. A Most Violent Year is not the greatest film ever made. But it’s a good, well developed, thriller. Which just so happens to be my favourite genre.

Rating: 6.8/10

[other 6.8’s include Focus (2015) and Gangster Squad (2013)]

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