A Most Violent Year (2014)
There was a lot of hype around A Most Violent Year (2014) around awards season. With all these films out to see at the time I couldn’t get to this one and a part of me is glad really as I feel I would’ve been disappointed, the DVD which I have just watched is covered in comparisons to Serpico (1973), The Godfather (1972) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984) all of which are great pieces of film, to compare this much later entry to these films is something you can’t say without creating an aura around the film to live up to these expectations. Which I feel has been a complete misfire really, I think all that hype got the critics into a hysteria around A Most Violent Year (2014). If I’m honest I enjoyed far more The Calling (2014) which was a middle of the road thriller with older and unknown actors, which is probably why that was less successful. At least I wanted to see what was going to happen more.
I think it comes down to the characters, if you don’t care for them then you just can’t engage enough to really want to enjoy the film. I’m not going to compare both films as that is something I rarely do and they are two completely different films with two very different budgets. The canvas on which the plots unfold are different two, one small town Canada and the other down town New York City. What I can gauge from the film is that Oscar Isaac has developed a niche for playing the bad guy now, something which may change with the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens at Christmas. I think here with him in this role I wanted to find something in him to respect, to like, which really failed for me.
His character Abel Morales wants to be successful in the oil business just his other competitors are, we find him at the beginning of the film, about to make the biggest purchase of his career, that could make him the most powerful man in the city for his industry. Clearly a lot is at stake here, if only I really cared though. He wants to be the tough guy without really being tough, he wont even carry a gun, maybe that is where the Serpico comparison comes into this. Even when his family are put into danger he wont allow his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) to have a gun in the house. If anything she’s the one with the trousers on, the brains of the business really. He wants to go straight, with all these temptations to violence put in his way.
The title suggests a year of violence, it’s actually a month, as we see the deposit go down on a deal before it closes in a months time. We see Abel struggle with the danger to his business, family and threat to his future. Is he another Michael Corlenone? who wants to stay straight or at least as long as possible. There is also a threat to his reputation from the D.A. Lawrence (David Oyelowo) who has gathered a mass of evidence against him. The threat of charges, no matter how small are lingering over him as he is about to make or break.
Nothing is clearly going his way, especially when the Bank pull the rug from under his feet, leaving him to beg, borrow and steal if needs be. I am left wondering how he is going the money together, whilst still not really caring if he pulls it off. I wish I could feel something for this guy whose conscience is really conflicted to the point that I don’t know what he is thinking. There’s a scene late on where he catches two me with one of his lorries, he has both the opportunity and motive to kill but at the last-minute stops which I hated. Am I so predisposed to wanting the bad guy shot that my expectations are being dashed? Is this a gangster with a heart like Carlito (Al Pacino) in Carlito’s Way (1993) who struggles to stay on a reformed path. Abel is trying to avoid falling into that trap in the first place.
I suppose I’ve worked out during the review what is good about the film in terms of plot and the comparisons which I still think are very flimsy if I’m honest. We do have some solid performances all round which is a bonus. I can’t fault the cinematography or soundtrack either which both create a dark world of temptation which the aptly named Morales are living in. They have it all and want even more. It’s the decisions they make which they are willing to live with. It’s not a film I think I will be re-visiting in a rush, maybe in a year or so to see what else I can garner from it. Until then I’m not overly impressed or care enough about the characters to really enjoy it.
- Film Review – A Most Violent Year (2014) (jordanandeddie.wordpress.com)