Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - ON STAGE -

AC­CORD­ING to statis­tics, 1981 was the most year in New York City his­tory in relation to the pop­u­la­tion. Over the 12 months, more than 1.2 mil­lion crimes were recorded, in­clud­ing 60,000 ag­gra­vated as­saults, 5,400 forcible rapes and 2,220 mur­ders.

A crack epi­demic had the city in a choke­hold and Mayor Ed Koch seemed pow­er­less to curb gang war­fare and spi­ralling law­less­ness on the sub­way sys­tem.

Writer-di­rec­tor JC Chan­dor, who was Os­car nom­i­nated for the 2012 thriller Mar­gin Call, uses this tur­bu­lent pe­riod as a back­drop to his mas­ter­ful and sear­ing por­trait of crime and bru­tal pun­ish­ment.

Cen­tred on a mar­ried cou­ple, who are strug­gling to keep their heat­ing oil dis­tri­bu­tion business afloat, A Most Vi­o­lent Year pow­er­fully con­veys the per­sonal and pro­fes­sional sac­ri­fices of a de­voted hus­band and wife, who be­come one of the shock­ing statis­tics.

The film’s pac­ing is de­cep­tively steady and slow, lulling us into a false sense of se­cu­rity as Chan­dor ups the stakes for his beau­ti­fully sketched char­ac­ters, forc­ing them to take greater risks to pro­tect their near­est and dear­est.

Abel Mo­rales ( Os­car Isaac) owns a fleet of oil trans­port trucks that carry valu­able fuel to cus­tomers across the city.

He’s a small player but hopes to ex­pand by clinch­ing a deal for prop­erty on the Brook­lyn water­front that will al­low him to take de­liv­ery of oil from the river.

Hav­ing put down 700,000 US dol­lars as a de­posit, Abel has just 30 days to close the trans­ac­tion or the ven­dor keeps the down­pay­ment and can sell the land to a com­peti­tor.

Soon after, Abel learns that one of his trucks has been hi­jacked and the driver Ju­lian (Elyes Ga­bel) has been badly beaten.

Union rep Bill O’Leary (Peter Gerety) asks Abel to al­low the driv­ers to carry un­li­cenced guns as a de­ter­rent but the boss strongly ob­jects, know­ing that it will take just one stray bul­let to arouse the sus­pi­cions of the cru­sad­ing As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney ( David Oyelowo).

Threats to Abel’s liveli­hood be­come per­sonal, tar­get­ing his chil­dren and wife Anna (Jessica Chas­tain), whose gang­ster fa­ther used to own the company.

“Let me deal with this,” pleads Abel.

“You bet­ter,” she re­torts. “Be­cause you won’t like what’s go­ing to hap­pen once start get­ting in­volved.”

A Most Vi­o­lent Year hits a sweet spot on ev­ery level, from Chan­dor’s mea­sured di­rec­tion and lean script, to the pow­er­house per­for­mances.

Isaac is mes­meris­ing as an hon­ourable fam­ily man, who re­fuses to sink to the depths of some of his ri­vals, stick­ing to the path of right­eous­ness for as long as he dare.

Chas­tain es­says another ballsy woman of sub­stance, cut­ting through her hus­band’s rose-tinted ide­al­ism with harsh home truths.

When obliv­ion beck­ons for Abel and Anna, we dis­cover the true strength of their moral com­passes in the face of the cor­rup­tion and sense­less blood­shed.


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