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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'A Most Violent Year': A Taut, Arresting Depiction of The Hard-Fought Pursuit of the American Dream

Movie poster for the film A Most Violent Year starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain

“A Most Violent Year” (2014) is a tense and engrossing crime drama starring Oscar Isaac as Abel Morales, proprietor of a burgeoning heating-oil company in New York City circa 1981—the most violent year in the city’s recorded history.

Earnestly striving to build a successful enterprise, Abel is bedeviled by a series of fuel truck hijackings that batter his earnings and discourage his drivers. Abel's wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) urges him to embrace violence as a means of retaliation, yet his strict personal code of conduct prevents him from embracing bloodshed at all costs.

Abel is further confounded by newfound attention from District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo) for suspected violations—just as he brokers a deal with a group of Hasidic Jews to purchase an East River fuel depot. With aspirations of business growth and greater financial freedom, Abel’s expansion strategy is threatened by growing legal strife, escalating violence and fierce opposition from myriad competitors.

Written and directed by J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”, “All is Lost”), “A Most Violent Year” is an expertly-crafted depiction of a bygone era, replete with tension, thrills and vivid moments of striking turmoil. Isaac and Chastain lead a well-rounded cast with their dynamic performances, lending a tangible air of urgency to the proceedings. It’s a compelling and alarming tale of private enterprise and criminality in America, delivering a highly memorable illustration of the hard-fought pursuit of the American Dream.


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