April 23, 2015

A belated review, from last week I saw A Most Violent Year.

It stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.   Isaac was a familiar face who I remember seeing first as Joseph in The Nativity Story.   In that I thought that he was very good.    Really how much is written about Joseph and how he reacted to all this?  Isaac found a way to make him live, and be human and sympathetic.    He also played the spoiled King in Ridley Scott’s failed Robin Hood experiment and the King who decides not to agree to the Magna Carta.    He was more than a little over the top there.

Here he plays the owner of a New York/New Jersey home heating oil company.   He is ambitious and street smart.  He married well, and acquired a company from his Wife’s family.   She played by Chastain is a daughter of a mobster (who is presently in jail).   The roots there are strong and her inclinations lean backwards when things don’t go her way.    Here there is a business deal that puts Isaac’s company in a vulnerable position and then bad things start to happen.   It’s 1980s NYC when there were more murders and rapes than at any other time.   It’s dangerous.   But he is trying to run a legit business.  By legit, that means “following standard business practices” which in those days meant that there were still some shady dealings and sharp practices for the consumers.    The story travels a familiar arc, and it is the performances that are good.   Isaac has real personality and presence.   He has deep and penetrating looks and stares.  He says a lot with his face (I kept thinking that there was more than a little of a young Pacino in him).    The story seems a fair bit at times like The Godfather.  It’s not on that plain or level but he is good.    As for Chastain, she plays the wife well, and she shows the closeness in the relationship.   I noted how the couple when they are meeting under stressful circumstances still ask “Are you okay?”   It’s a little thing, but shows concern and support.    There was thought around Awards time that this could be under consideration.   It likely garnered a few votes, but just not enough.   I cannot really remember it being in the theatres.

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