A Most Violent Year

 (2,521)7.02 h 4 min2014X-RayR
A thriller set in NYC during 1981, the film follows the lives of an immigrant (Oscar Isaac) and his family trying to expand their business as the rampant violence and corruption drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.
J.C. Chandor
Oscar IssacJessica ChastainDavid Oyelowo
English [CC]
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Supporting actors
Alessandro NivolaAlbert Brooks
J.C. ChandorNeal DodsonAnna Gerb
R (Restricted)
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3.8 out of 5 stars

2521 global ratings

  1. 44% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 20% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 17% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 11% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 8% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

ricracReviewed in the United States on September 20, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
I give it 4.5 stars.
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An interesting movie. Not a crash, bang, boom - one violent, action scene after another,
but a lot of ground was covered, if you paid attention.

One reviewer said they didn’t think the title was appropriate, I do.
I think this movie was a “snap shot” picture into their lives…. the most violent year they’d
experienced— except it didn’t span the entire year. It actually only gave us a look
into a little over 30 days of that year.

Some reviewers didn’t like the ending. Not every story ends with “and they lived happily ever after”
nor the star lying in the street in a pool of blood, or being led off in handcuffs. Sorry folks— that’s not real life
for most of us.

Some said they thought the ending was missing….I didn’t. When you look at it as
a small snap shot of time, there is no “ending”. Life goes on - the good, the bad and the ugly.

In real life, the legal problems, the investigations and hearings, would drag on for many yrs.
They may or may not beat the charges. After all, company money was spent / reinvested
in the company. Maybe, it was just bad bookkeeping. ;>)

We don’t know exactly why he was being targeted by the hijackers and goons.
We’re shown some possible explanations, however:

1) He was expanding his sales force into territories serviced by other companies.

2) One of his competitors also wanted to buy the same piece of property.

3) Buying the property meant gaining considerably more storage capacity, which would make
him more powerful. Larger buys from the oil producers will cut his cost of goods sold
and it gives him the ability to service many more customers.

4) It looks like the industry in general was dirty. Skimming, scamming, tax avoidance, apparently
were SOP - standard operating procedures - within his industry, but he was a fish swimming
upstream—genuinely trying to run his business straight.

No, we don’t know the reason, if there was just one. We get little glimpses as to the possible reasons -
anger, resentment, jealousy and fear. None of them will resolve themselves quickly and completely—
not in real life, nor a real-life depiction.

The final conversation actually tells us a lot, if we listen. It tells us about the past and the future.
It tells us about his moral dilemmas. The most right action, the most right choice, the most right course
to take.

A real life snap shot in time is what this movie was all about. A time that was the most violent they’d
ever encountered.
5 people found this helpful
PatReviewed in the United States on November 12, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is a great screenplay first and foremost
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New York CIty, 1981, is a blasted moral hellscape against which a very primal struggle for survival unfolds in a very tense thirty days, all for the right to supply homes with heating oil.

J. C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year" is a powerfully told story, a thrilling surprise, and both Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain do remarkable work as a couple trying to close a deal that will turn their heating oil company into a much larger overall business, the deal they've been working their whole lives to prepare. This one particular month starts with them confident, convinced they're going to take things to the next level, and it unfolds with them increasingly unsure that they're going to pull it off. It is a movie about an entire city conspiring to test a marriage, and the way this one particular couple fights their way through.

This is a great screenplay first and foremost. I think it's impeccably paced, and the way the pieces drop into place, it's never too clever or too much about the plotting, but instead about watching how characters make choices. From the very first moment, Abel Morales ((Isaac) is being tested. And Anna Morales (Chastain) is right there by his side. Bit by bit, this film perfectly tests and twists and turns and tumbles them.
There's a district attorney named Lawrence (David Oyelowo) who is preparing a major case against the Morales family and their business. Anna assure Abel that there's nothing to find, that they're as clean as anyone in the industry can be. He's the one making gut check choices over the course of the film, and it's always him coming back to her, and her talking to him at the end of the day.

There's plenty to report, too. There's all of their dealings with their lawyer Andrew Walsh (Albert Brooks). There's a driver who gets attacked and pulled out of his truck, his jaw broken. Julien (Elyes Gabel) wants to be like Abel. He looks at him as an example, as proof that you can make it happen if you work for it. Even after he's attacked, he wants to believe in the example.

When you think about fascinating industries to delve into on film, heating oil supply really doesn't sound like something I'd put on the top of a list. I'd be wrong, though, because Chandor's script paints this amazing, detailed portrait of the world that Abel is trying to conquer. It's not the whole world. He's not crazy. But it's his corner of things, and he wants to be able to say he did it the right way. He wants to do it with his hands clean. It's how he defines himself, and how he picks his course of action.

Alex Ebert's score is my favorite score so far, in November, and by a wide margin. It's a fantastic score, so expressive, so important to the way the film works. This is a major theatrical experience. From a perfect first shot to a perfect last shot, I think this is a carefully considered movie. Chandor's in full control over what he's doing at this point. He's been getting more aggressively stylized with each film. What he does here is not reality, and it's not meant to be. His filmmaking is very experience-oriented. We feel what Abel feels. We're with him for most of the movie. There are scenes where we follow someone else, and in each case, it's meant to put us in he shoes of these people. We're meant to feel just what it's like to try to navigate the enormous pressure they're all under, and there's a strong conversation to be had about how clean Abel's hands are at the end of the film.

Bradford Young's photography is impressive, considered, emotional. I want to watch this again in a theater, just to feel that mix, to feel that same pulse that is running through it from the start to the conclusion. Ron Patane, who cut the film, tightens the screws in just the right way, bit by bit, and I'm impressed by not only where Chandor's story ends up, but how it feels when we get there. Sometimes you just feel a different degree of control in what's happening onscreen. Sometimes you can feel that there's something special happening with the cast or in some other deepartment or, in the best case scenarios, in all of the departments at once.

I wasn't expecting whatever this film was. I am impressed by how adult it is, how confident it is, how sad it is, and yet how much it dares to say you can win after all, you can have it if you're willing to give yourself up completely. Watching how Abel salvages his deal, how he keeps his dream afloat, how he makes sure he can go home and tell Anna that everything's going to be okay… it's crazy. It's dark. It's really scary on some level, because the stakes seem to be so very high.

The entire cast deserves credit, but Chastain and Isaac are amazing, so in tune, so able to read each other in a scene that there's something happening, something real, in every one of their private conversations. It's the reason I care about anything else. The mechanics of the business, the things that they do to keep it afloat, that's all only interesting because of how much it matters to these two people, and because they make it matter.

I thought "Margin Call" was fine. I thought "All Is Lost" was fine. I have liked the work of J. C. Chandor before now, but I was hardly a raving advocate. I'm onboard the Chandor train this time, though. I think this is a pretty major piece of adult emotional entertainment, something special, and I hope we get a lot more like it from him.
11 people found this helpful
Kellen Michael MaloneReviewed in the United States on May 2, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Not boring, just not an action film.
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Based on negative reviews, it sounds like those people were expecting an action movie. This isn't that kind of movie.

A Most Violent Year is well written, acted, directed, etc. Music, cinematography, and pacing are all spot on. This movie tells a story and studies characters, so it's not a "popcorn flick." If that's what you're interested in, you'll probably really like this movie. If you expect it to be something it's not, you'll be that guy giving a 1-star review and complaining about it being boring.
3 people found this helpful
bmorelibrarygirlReviewed in the United States on August 29, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
Yes to Anti-Godfather&Scarface, No to Shades of Macbeth, YES to FRICKIN AWESOME
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LOVED IT and proves that excess violence isnt needed to tell an incredible story. First the look: it screamed Scarface to me. These two lead actors look like Pacino & Pfieffer reincarnated. I love the fact though, that their relationship and characterizations are totally different. He attempts at all times possible to be as honorable as possible and she is more than just a pretty face by far. They have the look of class, not trashy excess. And the eat or be eaten motto of gangster movies is not present here.
Next the drama: Because there is an undercurrent of organized crime so close to the pair (inlaws) there is always the possibility of calling in dear old dad- but not so. She may have called for a gun but used it herself, and that large sum of money came from her own schemes, not dear old gangster dad. And Abel (able) didnt even behave like a gangster when he could have been slightly justified during the incident with the truck. Who among the great movie gangsters of our time would have let that driver go basically unscathed? His idea of moving up in the family was reminiscent of godfathers, the ideals of building strength of character and tenacity, but the tasks were far from similar--learning the sales pitch instead of how to extort. His idea of being his own man was not about living off the backs or misfortunes or vices of others (aside from being better at oil supply than the competition) but the sweat and know how and satisfaction of hard honest work. He cared for those around him in a nurturing and empowering way, taking the hard stance of being brutally honest but in a helpful way, offering the opportunities for growth.
The wife: She is not like lady Macbeth, from my estimation. She is headstrong and ambitious yes, but not to a fault. She hides away the money but its their money. She gets a gun but she only shoots a deer. Shes a good mother and supportive wife. Shes rough around the edges but is the perfect foil to his uber straight man. Cause he is a super straight man. And also not like Macbeth because he is 100 honest in his attempts at usurping competitors, there are no murders or underhanded deals. Every time our experience tells us he will go bonkers, he reacts like a man intent on doing the "most right thing". His character is so impeccable that even the gangster didnt want to get involved with him. He is an old school James Stewart meets a little Grant. Super straight laced and obtusely innocent on purpose, but with enough street sense and vision of reality to come to terms with the real world. Plugging the oil leak after watching someone blow their brains out (without flinching) pretty much sums it up.
Others: I also loved the play between DA and Abel. The idea that an immigrant and Black man are making these moves and stand to gain so much in potential partnership says a lot, bump the '81 timeframe.
This is an all around AWESOME movie and id recommend it to anyone.
One person found this helpful
The MadcowReviewed in the United States on January 18, 2017
3.0 out of 5 stars
there are still many redeeming qualities that make it a good, worthwhile watch
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Even though I'm giving the movie only 3 stars, there are still many redeeming qualities that make it a good, worthwhile watch. The acting is very great, very believable. Both main characters, Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain put on memorable performances. They both truly make the movie and am a fan of both since. However, the cinematography and editing are wonderful too. As a movie lover, there are times in the movie that I stopped and took notice of the shot and what the director was doing. All in all, though, the film leaves me wanting more. I was very entertained, but the story could have progressed further. If you are looking for a typical, cookie cutter plot, then pass this film along. If you are a fan a great acting, then I would definitely suggest this film.
2 people found this helpful
VVinny01Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2015
2.0 out of 5 stars
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Maybe its just me, but I read a review on this movie that basically talked about what a mini tragedy it wasn't nominated for any awards. What I would say is the fact it wasn't is probably spot on. People are so in love with any period film, apparently even if it's set in the 80's, about NEW YORK. A film about New York simply doesn't make it a good film. A Most Violent Year ended up being a predictable film that was written in such a way as to leave me waiting for the punch line on a bad joke.You'll say, "Really...thats it." Its set up to present itself as having a twist, but the twist never comes. Hard working guy comes up in the company, marries the owners daughter-----buys the company, struggles to grow it all while dealing with the police (who goes from super cop to in the end willing to trade the investigation for political favors), petty crime (which looks intricate as if its his competitors behind it, yet its just petty crooks stealing), and a strong personality in Jessica Chastain (who gives you the impression shes the Godfather's daughter, yet shes just a simple chick stealing from her own company by shaving the books?) who plays his wife.She was actually was the star of the film and the script robbed her. Oh and I almost forgot--the intricate deals he's making with his competitors to close the deal of a lifetime, only to be given a bank account number by his wife to an account where she's keeping money she stole from herself??? Writers, if you want a most violent year in the 80's, um that would be Miami? Every movie in Miami tries to be "HaHa South Beach." But I was there, 17, and it was really scary. I know the John Gotti thing, but the FBI and NYPD was all over that. The cops in Miami were still carrying 6 shot revolvers, and drug money was king . I could maybe go 3 stars for the cinematography----that snow falling in the beginning when the armored truck brought him what he thought was his life saving to do a deal.......awesome. Otherwise Blahhh.
ChrisRutReviewed in the United States on August 14, 2015
3.0 out of 5 stars
Chaneling Rebecca de Mornay and Al Pacino
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I was thrilled by Jessica Chastain's brilliant portrayal of a younger Rebecca de Mornay of Risky Business playing the female lead. Seriously, I kept not being able to even see Jessica Chastain there on the screen. Just Rebecca... Remarkable. Sadly, the rest of the film was not so remarkable. I never could quite figure out what the hell was going on - was the story just about the conflict of the guy channeling Al Pacino in the God Father, staying on the straight and narrow versus staying straight when forced to depart from said straight and narrow? Well, yes. That's what it was about. Not bad, but I've seen it before. Growing up in the Italian section of Trenton, NJ, I knew a lot of GodFather wannabees (pre the movie) and met an actual God Father-type once. Given direct experience, the portrayal felt like a caricature; just true enough to be instantly recognized, but distorted enough as to result in a flat two-dimensional portrayal. Not to say that the character was played without feeling. No, it was well played. But the occasional deja-vu-like experience of recognizing that you recognize the character from earlier portrayals couldn't be ignored. So, three stars. Worth watching for the tension and drama. It just never actually goes anywhere.
Consuelo T. GabrielReviewed in the United States on April 19, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
''A Most Violent Year'' was the winner of the Best Film of the Year award
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''A Most Violent Year'' was the winner of the Best Film of the Year award, as given by the National Board of Film Review.....It was well worth watching. Oscar Isaac gave a riveting performance in his lead role as the owner of an oil delivery service, and Jessica Chastain compliments him perfectly as his wife. I didn't anticipate that this movie would keep me totally engrossed from start to finish....but I was left stunned at the rawness and authenticity that was brought to the screen, and will definitely watch this top rate film again. This is a MUST SEE movie. You won't be disappointed. I really look forward to seeing Oscar Isaac in more film now. He carries a powerful quiet resolve in his presence on the screen. He doesn't have to even speak,....even his silence carries its own impact.
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