REVIEW: 'A Most Violent Year' not so violent - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

REVIEW: 'A Most Violent Year' not so violent

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's inevitable for moviegoers to make assumptions about film. Time and again we enter the theater expecting one interpretation, only to leave with another.

Such is the case of screenwriter/director J.C. Candor's film "A Most Violent Year."

+ A Most Violent Year
+ Rated R
+ 125 minutes
+ Starring Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David, Oyelowo, Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Elyes Gabel
+ 2.5 stars out of 4

Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is an immigrant businessman, as intent on preserving his integrity as he is preserving his trucks and employees from falling victim to heists in New York City of 1981, statistically one of the most violent years in the city's history.

This setting provides some degree of tension as Abel is brought to the attention of Police Chief Lawrence (David Oyelowo) for suspicion of corruption and fraud within his business. Abel turns to his icy wife, Ana, the scene-grabbing Jessica Chastain. Ana plays as the spine and aggressor that Abel is not.

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Abel's philosophy is to do whatever he can to prevent from becoming a "gangster," much to the frustration of his gun-wielding wife, as she feels they're family and future hang precariously in the balance.

Throughout the film, you come to notice a small but growing threat emerge: new characters are introduced that are potentially enemies, hints of impending violence; Abel's youngest daughter finds a loaded gun at the front door of their house and Officer Lawrence crashes Abel's and Ana's 10-year-old's birthday party. This is the formula of a smart, gripping film.

All of it is presumed to be building toward a gripping climax -- either Abel's enemies or he himself will break, and a quite literal interpretation of the film's title will be upheld.

Unfortunately, what the film seems to hint at does not seek to deliver. Little fulfillment comes from Abel's impending crisis.

Saving graces of the film are the performances. Isaac carries a very human performance as a vulnerable man seeking to fit the image of an earnest businessman with something to prove to himself more than anyone else. And Chastain offers a glimpse of a character of fascinating potential: what vengeance is she capable of if she is pushed to the edge?

However, as compelling as the performances are, the potential of the film is equally wasted. Aesthetic is abundant, but the absence of a resolution give the film an emperor-with-no-clothes conclusion.

It is inevitable to make assumptions about film, but in this instance, "A Most Violent Year" is not so violent at all.

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