Complete A-Z list

Most Violent Year, A


Stars: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, Albert Brooks, David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Elyes Gabel

Director: J C Chandor

Good performances from the two leads and an edgy atmosphere help boost this otherwise run-of-the-mill, crime-tinged drama.

There's trouble with the Teamsters Union in the New York docks, in this case involving companies transporting heating oil. Immigrant Abel Ramirez (Isaac) has driven himself to the top of the trucking trade in just a few years, enjoying a lavish lifestyle with his wife (Chastain), the daughter of a Brooklyn gangster, and their own two daughters.

All his life, Abel has tried to be honest and above-board - even if his wife occasionally threatens to solve problems 'the old way' - but he now has two headaches: buying valuable dockside land he has long had his eye on, and dealing with the unknown men who are hijacking his fleet of trucks and selling off the oil, presumably to one of Abel's competitors.

The latter problem promises to torpedo the former when Abel's bankers get cold feet. And, though he insists his business is clean, he is also under investigation by the authorities. When one of his drivers (Gabel), already hijacked once, is attacked again and draws an unlicensed firearm, Abel's life threatens to collapse like a house of cards.

Although its characters are interesting - Abel dresses like a gangster but swears that all his life he has fought to avoid becoming one - the film is quite dry and some of its dialogue scenes are too slowly paced, meaning that the patches of action come as more than welcome relief.

Droll 1980s funnyman Brooks appears in a rare supporting role, but his character, a sort of adviser to Abel, remains shadowy and ill-defined.

The title itself is a bit of a misnomer, as there's no more violence here than in the average US blue-collar drama - which this is.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Icon. Colour (unspecified).
125 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 19 Jan 2015