A Most Violent Year (2015)

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Critic Consensus: Gritty, gripping, and weighted with thought-provoking heft, A Most Violent Year represents another strong entry in writer-director J.C. Chandor's impressive filmography.

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Set during the winter of 1981 -- statistically one of the most crime-ridden of New York City's history -- A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is a drama following the lives of an immigrant and his family as they attempt to capitalize on the American Dream, while the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built. (C) A24

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Critic Reviews for A Most Violent Year

All Critics (215) | Top Critics (46)

The underside of the American Dream is on display in A Most Violent Year, a drama about an immigrant trying to make his way to the top.

Feb 2, 2015 | Full Review…
Toronto Sun
Top Critic

Chandor follows the psychologically penetrating tradition of Sidney Lumet, Alan Pakula and Francis Ford Coppola, observing crime as a microcosm of society.

Jan 30, 2015 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Like that camel-hair coat Abel wears, A Most Violent Year is classy and commands respect, but a stronger pulse under the lapels would make us care much more.

Jan 30, 2015 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

[A] tight anti-thriller, one where the violence of the title is more implied than seen.

Jan 29, 2015 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

"A Most Violent Year" is a far more interesting film than its title implies. And a film you've never seen before.

Jan 29, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Abel is a man with ideals in a world that has no use for them: If he's going to succeed, he's going to have to use his wits instead of bullets.

Jan 29, 2015 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for A Most Violent Year

Unspectacular and realistic thriller drama about an early 80s entrepreneur and his attempt to stay above water within the law. The actors are top notch, although Chastain remains underused. Isaac carries the film with his performance, the plot does move a little slowly at times and there are merely a few adrenaline peaks. Still, overall satisfying and well done. Just don't expect to bite your nails in excitement or thrill.

Jens S.
Jens S.

Super Reviewer

½

Excellent performances and engaging story kept me involved. Thankfully, there's more to it than violence!

familiar stranger
familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

An immigrant's business is threatened by crime just as he has over-leveraged his assets. Oddly, A Most Violent Year is one of the least violent movies I've seen in a long time, but that doesn't mean that it's not incredibly tense and compelling. Jaw-clenching Oscar Isaac and icy-staring Jessica Chastain make compelling scene partners, and this plot puts them through the ringer. The film has been favorably compared to the work of Sidney Lumet, one of American cinema's most underrated masters, and I can see why: both director J.C. Chandor and Lumet use long, slow shots, framed in shadowy backgrounds to subtly establish a pervasively sinister mood. Anything can happen in the threatening worlds of Chandor and Lumet, and even when it doesn't, there's the feeling that the characters have only temporarily escaped tragedy. This mood leads to what I think is one of the film's great sequences. It's a chase sequence in which Abel, Isaac's character, must run down a lead on who has been stealing his business's trucks. With most chase sequences, it's easy to tell how it's going to end - the plot event has to be resolved by the character either catching the prey or not - but in this sequence, even though we know that Abel will catch the guy, we don't know whether Abel will fall further from grace and become a murderer. This moment of unpredictability is masterfully built and becomes an example of how good films can take a familiar construct - the chase - and make it fresh and exciting. Overall, A Most Violent Year is a phenomenal film, and it solidifies Isaac and Chandor as two of our most promising talents.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

½

A meticulously constructed near-masterpiece about a dirty businessman (Oscar Isaac) who begins to see his empire collapse from under him, and he suspects those he does business with are primarily responsible for it. This is a period piece about a calm, quiet character who approaches everything with a clear mind despite being under immense pressure. Isaac's rock-solid, confident performance is the driving force behind this movie, as he is a presents a rare individual that is unlike anything we've seen from these kinds of stories. The last act of the film has a scene in it that encapsulates the movie's message as a whole, and its rare we see this kind of skill behind the camera from a gifted, fairly new big movie director like J.C. Chandor.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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