A City of Desolation: J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year

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A Most Violent Year is an exercise in that 1970s New Hollywood style that has become so common in recent films that it may as well now be a considered a contemporary genre of its own. Dark lighting, steady shots, gritty urban realism, a political atmosphere, and a cynical and stark worldview are all attributes of The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, and Serpico, amongst others, and A Most Violent Year utilizes all of them, which weighs on the film heavily.

A Most Violent Year is about the young owner of a growing oil company, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), whose trucks are being hijacked, men beaten, and oil stolen just as he is trying to close a deal on a riverfront property. He’s losing money; his drivers are getting nervous; he’s showing vulnerability. Adding to that, the DA’s office is bringing up charges against him for possible illegal activities. The year of the title is 1981, which was one of the most violent in New York City’s history.…

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