Review: A Most Violent Year (2014)


A man’s moral fibre is stretched to the limit in J.C. Chandor’s intoxicating, robust drama A Most Violent Year, which bears similarities to the finest crime thrillers of the 1970s even while inverting them. Abel (Oscar Isaac), a do-right businessman, has hopes of expanding his company, but at a time when corruption and violence are soaring, it proves difficult to do when playing by the book. Chandor’s third feature in as many years crackles with intensity and charged emotion as Abel is pushed and pulled by the outside world – and members of his own family – to betray his righteousness. Isaac inhabits the character with aplomb, and is matched by a solid supporting cast in the form of Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo and Jessica Chastain as his wicked wife. The script and technical credits are on the low-key side, but in a way that pulls focus to the inner toil of a man in over his head in more ways than one. And that’s where A Most Violent Year succeeds most, as a powerful character drama, with dishonesty and severity (a desperate chase through a tunnel highlights this well) never too far away.

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