A Most Violent Year
Written and Directed by J.C Chandor
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks

In 1981, there were 2166 murders in New York City. (In comparison, 2013 had 648.) New York suffered from mob violence, gang violence, dirty politicians, and the streets were grimy from a trash strike. John Lennon had been gunned down the year before. People were on edge. Politicians called for various measures–one was cracking down on illegal activity.

Abel Morales (Isaac) is an immigrant who had managed to seize the American dream by purchasing a heating oil business. He’s trying to operate a legitimate business despite his wife’s (Chastain) ties to organized crime via her father. He has put together a financial package to expand his operation through loans from some local lenders.

When his trucks begin to be hi-jacked, his drivers beaten up, his salesmen assaulted, he’s forced to act. His wife demands it, in fact.

“You must take the path that is the most right,” is his mantra. And he follows this as much as he can as he tried to sniff out where his troubles are coming from. At the same time, he is the target of an investigation by an ambitious DA (Oyelowo).

I am not sure about how closely this film follows the actual mechanics/history of the oil business in New York in the eighties. But it worked for me. Both Isaac and Chastain were effective and compelling in their parts. It presented Morales’s dilemma in a straight-forward and concise way. It looked good in that it looked bad. New York has never been grimier. Highly recommended.

Patti Abbott