Monday, January 12, 2015

[Review] A Most Violent Year

As I mentioned in my review of 2014's solid The Drop, it isn't that easy to come across a great mob film at the cinema nowadays. A lot of the best stuff of this ilk moved to television with top-notch series like "Breaking Bad" and "Boardwalk Empire". J.C. Chandor helms as writer/director for A Most Violent Year, a rare well-made crime drama that is worth a trip to the theaters.

Amidst the hustle of New York City during the year 1981, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) and Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain) are a couple of lovers as well as shady "business" partners. The narrative revolves around the two conducting their deals in organized crime, whether it's behind-the-scenes scheming and scamming, or out-in-the-open physical confrontations (hence, the Violence).

The story is compelling and unpredictable, as the plot stands alone as an intriguing suspense tale. The cinematography is drenched in shadows, aligning with brutal and conflicting themes on the American dream. Albert Brooks lends a solid supporting role, and David Oyelowo (currently experiencing much success for his stellar performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma) makes a few appearances. Jessica Chastain continues to prove that she's a chameleon, as she's shown a diverse range in a multitude of roles just within the past couple of years.

A Most Violent Year draws a lot of influence from past mafia staples in an effective and inspired manner. The opening is reminiscent of "The Sopranos" credit sequence, displaying the grit of the city. It hearkens to The Godfather--from its prestige and pacing, to its low-key musical score of horns. Oscar Isaac undoubtedly channels Al Pacino's Michael Corleone--soft spoken and almost listless, but with a lot of ruthless authority hiding in there. It never comes off as overly derivative. And if you're making a mafia film at this day and age, why not refer to the greats?


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