THE BLOG
01/07/2015 10:00 am ET Updated Mar 09, 2015

Popcorn Preview: A Most Violent Year

A Most Violent Year (2014)
Cast includes: Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), David Oyelowo (Selma), Albert Brooks (Drive), Elyes Gabel (Interstellar)
Writer/Director: J.C. Chandor (Margin Call, All Is Lost)
Genre: Drama | Crime | Suspense (125 minutes)

By most accounts, today should be an auspicious day. Abel Morales gets in an early morning run as the cold winter sun comes up. He and his wife Anna have done their homework... are they ready? "Yeah." It's 1981, and they're finalizing a deal with Lefkowitz... at long last going to contract on the old Bay Front Terminal. "Get the fuck out of the truck," says the armed hijackers. They beat the driver Julian to within an inch of his life and drive away with Standard Heating Oil's truck. Lefkowitz reminds Morales that it's a 30-day contract... "Those are the terms. After that, we keep the money [Abel and Anna's life savings] and sell the property to one of your competitors." Mazel tov! "It's not ours yet," says Abel. But he indulges himself in a walk through the property, all the way to the waterfront, where he can admire the whole New York City skyline. Owning this property will put Standard in a very powerful position.

Despite Abel's commitment to his drivers, Julian isn't sure he can continue driving for Standard. The police find the stolen truck, minus $6,000 worth of fuel oil. This isn't a one-time incident... it's been happening more often lately. Anna wants Abel to ask her father and brother for help, but Abel is determined to "take the path that is most right." Some even call him "the caped crusader" because of his determination to abandon "standard practices." Abel hopes DA Lawrence will take action to stop the piracy of oil trucks. After all, Lawrence was brought in to clean up the industry. But Lawrence has a different idea... he's looking into financial practices in the industry and Standard is in his crosshairs. "We follow industry practices on every front," says Anna, who is also the company's bookkeeper. That's not what Abel was hoping to hear. Anna's father owned Standard before Abel bought it, and she's used to "following industry practices." In fact, she agrees with the teamsters... drivers should carry guns. "Let me deal with it," says Abel. "Oh, you'd better deal with it, because you're not gonna like what happens when I get involved."

As the film's title implies, there's a fair amount of violence in this movie, but it's not the kind of bloodbath we're used to seeing in modern movies. Instead, there's a feeling of danger that hangs over every scene right from the beginning. Nothing is ever overdone, which has a way of making the violence even more powerful. Writer/Director J.C. Chandor is becoming known for interesting, smart films, and A Most Violent Year lives up to expectations. In addition to a great script, it has a terrific cast with first-rate performances. The excellent cinematography makes the film's gritty world look quite artistic. After all, 1981 was a gritty year in general for New York City... excessive graffiti was an outward expression of decay and corruption. But as Abel explains... "When it feels scary to jump in... that is exactly when we need to jump. Otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life."

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Owner of a heating oil company doesn't want to get dragged into the criminal practices that have become the industry standard

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Crime,)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Mainstream Limited Release
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism
Nutshell: Unsavory business practices
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure Entertainment & Thought Provoking

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