A Most Violent Year

J. C. Chandor (2014)

Last Featured: June 13, 2017

Image Credits: A24 Films

Able Morales is an immigrant working hard for the American Dream. But just as he initiates a high-stakes deal that can make or break him, his competitors begin to pick him apart.

Nineteen eighty-one was the most violent year in the modern history of New York City, with 2,166 murders and over 120,000 robberies. The aptly titled A Most Violent Year drops us right into this gritty, volatile atmosphere, telling the story of an honest man who wants nothing to do with the turmoil pervading the city.

Abel Morales is a hard-working immigrant who aspires to realize the American dream. He works smart and plays by the rules, building a clean business within a corrupt environment. But just as he sets in motion the kind of high-stakes business move that can make or break a man, his ruthless competitors begin to pick him apart. 

His wife, Anna Morales, is the daughter of a gangster. She admires her husband, but she comes from a family that would handle problems a bit differently. Played with palpably restrained heat by Jessica Chastain, she might be the answer to—or the cause of—Abel’s woes. The moral black-and-white fades to tones of gray in a city already choking under a shadowy haze.

A Most Violent Year is writer/director J. C. Chandor’s third feature film (and third Indie Film Minute recommendation), following Margin Call and All Is Lost. Each of these films is imminently different; the only similarity among them is that each has a hardy protagonist who loses control of what is going on around them. And, of course, each film also exhibits distinctively masterful filmmaking.