1981 was New York's most violent year on record, the city's homicides had sky rocketed, hijackings were pandemic and crack cocaine and heroin had infested the city turning it into something similar to what disgusted taxi driver Travis Bickle so much that he wished for the rain to wash the scum off the streets. J.C Chandor's A Most Violent Year is set during this volatile era and stars Oscar Isaac as Abel Morales, a businessman looking to reach the top in his industry. The industry in question is the home heating oil industry, but his aims to reach the top are scuppered by a worryingly high number of his vans being stolen. Who is stealing his vans? It is a rival? Amongst all of this Abel must raise enough money to buy a vital plot of land with direct access to the river and contend with an investigation from a District Attorney.
Oscar Isaac's performance in A Most Violent Year certainly channels that of Al Pacino in The Godfather franchise, the physical appearance of both Abel and Michael Corleone are greatly similar and both have strong desires to reach the very top but do set out to achieve that in very different ways. J.C Chandor's film owes somewhat to the great crime films of Scorsese and Coppola, in fact one scene where the five main businessman of the oil heating industry are gathered round a table reminded me greatly of the scene in The Godfather where the five families also gather round a table. Abel suspects his rivals of purchasing or even directly stealing his oil, and the scene in which he asks them to stop bristles with electrifying tension.
J.C Chandor is known for his slow paced dramas and A Most Violent Year doesn't divert from this, the film takes its time to build a gripping narrative that has underlying tension as the viewer begins to wonder how much can the protagonist take before he chooses crime as a viable option to success - an option he has desperately strived to avoid. Oscar Isaac's performance is superb and he's brilliantly supported by Jessica Chastain (who plays his wife). Bradford Young's cinematography is excellent and Chandor keeps the pace effectively slow but not tedious.