A Most Violent Year 2014 ***

J.C. Chandor’s best film to date follows the survival dramas of Margin Call and All Is Lost with a more expansive vision of human corruption, conjured up against an impressively detailed industrial New York circa 1981.  With the frankness of Sidney Lumet, Chandor evokes the dog-eat-dog world faced by businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) as he struggles to understand who is sabotaging his heating oil operation. Jessica Chastain does her full Lady Macbeth has Anna, Abel’s wife burdened by a criminal past, and Alessandro Nivola oozing menace as Peter Forente, a threatening and obscenely wealthy associate. Despite the title, Chandor’s film isn’t a thriller which glories in violence, but is deeply concerned about it; as Abel finds himself pursuing villains with gun in hand in one of two absorbing chase scenes, our concern if for his own sense of morality, and Chandor never lets the weighty themes of brotherhood and betrayal get reduced to tropes in a hypnotic and drastically under-seen adult drama.


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