The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
A Most Violent Year (A24)
Written & Directed by J. C. Chandor
Say it with me people. Jessica Chastain. Jessica Chastain. Jessica Chastain is amazing. She is fast becoming my favorite actress. A Most Violent Year is a smoldering drama. It’s not an action film but a gloriously original take on the organized crime drama. A take on the mobster movie that I have never seen before, with amazing performances and palpably excruciating tension. And Jessica Chastain is fan-fucking-tastic… Seriously she is.
I’ve never been a fan of Oscar Isaac. I didn’t like his Coen Brothers character and he has yet to impress me in anything. I know he’s in the new Star Wars but if he doesn’t play a Sith then he is horribly miscast. Because the guy does not come off as likable in anything. And that fact, that he is inherently unlikable, really works wonders in this film. She’s a cliché and he is not. And they clash. And it’s a beautiful thing.
A Most Violent Year is a well-written, well-directed and well-executed character study of the relationship between a husband and wife who are deeply connected to the mob through family, through business, through marriage, through money and the tension that it creates between the two of them in his business and in their home. This is a performance driven drama and these two do some great work.
A Most Violent Year is one of the few recent crime-dramas that has a well-defined morality. A moral center. And it isn’t just about having bad people do bad things. Our hero does not want to go down that road. And for most of the movie, I was the one rooting for people to get shot. The tension builds so beautifully in this film that at one point I was sitting there hoping for a bloody killing spree. I’m not proud.
But can we talk about Jessica Chastain. She’s given us some great performances these past few years. We need to acknowledge her amazing body… of work. After wowing critics in The Help, a movie I have not yet seen, she starred in Zero Dark Thirty, which was amazing and she was amazing in it, then she follows that up with two more great performances this year in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and in A Most Violent Year showing that she is consistently good at her job. Now I’ll have to run down her credits and watch everything… EVERYTHING she has ever done. I predict she’ll be taking home a bunch of hardware in the not-too-distant future.
So to recap… A Most Violent Year is morally refreshing after so many movies where that wasn’t the case. A Most Violent Year is a twist on the mob film, and that alone is incredible because there aren’t a lot of untried mobster themes left. A Most Violent Year is a character driven, performance driven, drama that I literally had to watch twice to know if I liked it. And I know that makes little sense because if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have wanted to watch it twice. So I may go back for a third time just to check my logic.
Oh yes… and Jessica Chastain is awesome.