A Most Violent Year movie poster
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A Most Violent Year
A Most Violent Year movie poster

A Most Violent Year Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

There's this new movie called A Most Violent Year, which is a most misleading title given that the movie is hardly The Expendables or Saw. Only one person gets shot, for Christ's sake. I'd ask for my money back if I hadn't seen the movie for free.

That's not entirely true. While hardly violent on the spectrum of violent movies, A Most Violent Year is a well done, well acted drama-thriller starring Oscar "Hey look, I'm starring in a Star Wars movie next year" Isaac, Jessica "Everyone will say I deserve an Oscar even if I star in a sequel to Movie 43" Chastain and Albert "I can be creepy just by acting friendly" Brooks.

The movie is about a New York businessman who is struggling to keep his life and career together amidst a pending federal investigation, a potential Teamsters strike, a massive real estate deal and the armed robbery of several of his fueling trucks.

Written and directed by J.C Chandor, who directed All is Lost--a most terrific or most boring movie depending on who you talk to--A Most Violent Year runs the same tightrope. While tightly strung and threatening to burst at the seams, the movie's promise of chaos is often so restrained that you really have to have an appreciation for the nuance and simmering dialogue to declare A Most Violent Year a great film.

Make no doubt, there are those making that claim, but they are probably critics, not ordinary moviegoers like you. That's not to say that A Most Violent Year is missing great elements: Oscar Isaac is terrific and really carries the film; Jessica Chastain is good, though her character hints at things that are never fully explored; the film's cool, cold depiction of 1980's New York is... well, cool.

It's never boring, but it's never gripping either. Which is a shame, because you really want it to be. The movie appears to want to be a thriller but never embraces the genre; unfortunately, as the drama it is, it feels and is incomplete; it never reaches that explosive moment that it needs. The climax presented is neither satisfying nor even entirely convincing.

A Most Violent Year is a good movie, with strong direction and some great performances. But it falls just short of being greats which is a bigger letdown than Chandor likely realizes.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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