Oscar Cusp – A Most Violent Year (2014)

The underworld of heating oil.  This is about an owner of an oil company (Oscar Isaac), who makes a big move on a property, but then has surrounding events start to occur that may jeopardize his entire company’s future.  At one point, this film was in the talks of being considered for big time Oscar consideration; a serious, gangster period piece from the early 1980’s, what’s not to love?  Well, I can imagine their surprise when they drew a complete goose egg in the nomination department.

violentThe Academy must have been turned off by the intimidating title.

I was actually not looking forward to this, as I thought the trailer looked mediocre at best.  There was just nothing about it that looked appealing, so I am glad to say that this is actually way better than it looks.  It’s really a different movie than you may imagine it to be; what would you think a movie called “A Most Violent Year” would be about?  Maybe… violence?  While the threat of violence is ever present and while it sometimes does come down to it, these are actually very reasonable people that DON’T actually want brutality, they’re more interested in finding a more sensible solution.  Obviously in a movie like this that stars semi-gangsters, it is going to eventually come down to some sort of power play involving savagery, and while it is always startling, it is never excessive or grotesque.  This is really just this man trying to run his company, and you’re watching him gradually get in over his head, like a frog slowly becoming boiled.

la_ca_1125_most_violent_yearWho knew the business of heating oil could be so dangerous?

All the pieces of this work well in a smartly put together film.  Oscar Isaac has nothing but big things in store for the rest of his career, and he is sure to blow up these next couple of years, as he is attached to not one, but two upcoming geek properties (Star Wars and X-Men).  Jessica Chastain turns in great work like she always does, but at this point, it’s kind of expected, given her track record.  The thing I most enjoyed about this was the aesthetic of it; this is one of those rare movies that takes place in the 80’s, but doesn’t reek of it.  I loved all of the costuming here, as it all says high class, but hard work was involved obtaining it.  There’s good lighting, intense moments filled with fierce eye contact and lots of great scenes featured throughout.  It’s not even really 100% a crime move, but it hits all of those beats that you crave, the ones you have come to expect from all of the classics.  This is a very good movie that unfortunately never reached its target audience.

A Most Violent Year (2014) ****

– Critic for Hire

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