'A Most Violent Year' - High-Def Digest Review - High-Def Digest Forums
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Old 04-08-2015, 12:35 PM
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Default 'A Most Violent Year' - High-Def Digest Review

Steven has reviewed J. C. Chandor's 'A Most Violent Year'. He says this is a mostly engaging gangster drama with some pacing problems. Worth a look. Here's why...

http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/1677...olentyear.html
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Old 04-08-2015, 01:05 PM
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It's kinda strange. Both 'A Most Violent Year' and 'The Immigrant' actively courted comparisons to 'The Godfather' and both suffered for it, and both are hitting video this week.

I definitely liked 'A Most Violent Year' far more, and it grows on me the more I think about it. It had the more engaging protganist and several very memorable scenes. I don't think it's any masterpiece, but I found it to be a well-crafted story and I am glad I watched it. I have not seen any of JC Chandor's other films, but I'd open to seeing more from this guy. Whereas I have seen several films from James Grey but after 'The Immigrant' concluded that, even though he's trying, he's just not the filmmaker for me and I won't see any more of his films.
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Old 04-08-2015, 04:11 PM
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I don't understand why people call this a gangster movie. Not a single character in the film is a gangster aside from Chastain's brother and father (whom are never even depicted onscreen). Other than that, the closest thing is two stick-up men that rob trucks. It's not a gangster movie and not a very exciting crime thriller to boot. Great cinematography and production design for the period. I just wish the story and characters were more engaging. Not to mention all the unresolved plot threads at the end of the film. It seems like the script could have used a few more rewrites.
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Old 04-08-2015, 09:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cb1983 View Post
I don't understand why people call this a gangster movie.
The characters' end product (heating oil) is legit, but almost everything about their business is criminal. Whether it's stealing oil from each other, assaulting and kidnapping each other's salesmen, breaking into each other's homes, threatening each other's families, or cooking three sets of books, it's all on the wrong side of the law.

I probably wouldn't call it a gangster movie because that gets people expecting 'Scarface', but it's probably got more in common with gangster movies than if somebody just described it as a movie about a guy building his business.
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Old 05-16-2015, 03:19 AM
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Chandor's 1st film Margin Call had its heroes perform heroic tasks like
writing spreadsheets. It was a movie about the power of using Excel.
(I'm being facetious, though factual.) A Most Violent Year is about
getting a mortgage. It is. That is factually true about this film.

Anyone who first gets a mortgage probably went through the same
kind of drama, just set to a different scale. It was very dramatic for
that mortgage applicant, but it's boring for everyone else.

I'm not saying A Most Violent Year is boring. The slow burn, more
like a slow sunburn on a Most Cloudy Day, is a fair criticism for the
film. I was riveted at many parts of the film. But I do wish the pace
was a little tighter.

-----

The good/great of the film:

Oscar Isaac was great. He is a young Al Pacino. That's a high
compliment.

For a smaller budget film, the production value of making NY/NJ
look like 1980 was amazing.

-----

The ridiculous terms to the loan was such an artificial drama scenario
that made me shut off my brain. Yes, there are purchase agreements
where the deposit is non-refundable. Non-recourse $5,000 deposits or
$10,000 deposits that are 1 or 2 percent of the purchase price do
occur. Though very, very rare.

Mega-billion dollar mergers between corporations may even have a
$50 million breakup fee if the merger fails. But those fees are still
less than 2.5%-5% of the transaction size.

Oscar Isaac offers to buy a property before he can secure funding
from his bank with a non-refundable 40% down payment?!

This is nerdy math talk, so it might not resonate. So here's the apt
analogy. This purchase scenario is like a movie that starts off with
an adult handing a 4 year old, a loaded gun. What could go wrong?

-----

And the violence of a Most Violent Year, I get what the film is trying
to say about how violence begets violence. Mobster A kills Mobster
B. B's son kills A. A's son kills B's son. And so on and so on. We
see that theme in many, many gangster films.

But the way it is treated in the film, it was pretty silly. I'm all for
Isaac just refusing to give in to using violence. I really liked the
tension of Isaac almost giving in to it, and forced to get his hands
dirty.

But the payoff for refusing to use violence was so immediate and
unbelievable.

Isaac chases down the
Spoiler
truck hijacker and doesn't shoot him, and the hijacker tells Isaac
what he wants to know.


Isaac goes to the gathering of all the heating oil business owners
Spoiler
and tells them to stop stealing from him. Why stop? Because Isaac
threatens war that will hurt all their businesses? Because it's not
smart to bring extra attention from the district attorney? Nope.
Isaac says that it makes their industry disrespectful?! Because it
brings shame to their profession?! Isaac appeals to their morals?!


It's one thing to appeal to morality or to legal consequences to
one's own wife. Isaac does make a good argument to his wife
about the ramifications to their children. But to a roomful of
thieves and thugs?!

-----

And the film ends without answering the source of violence that
occurred on Isaac's family and business. (I was tired and it was late,
so I could be wrong.)

I think the film suggests that the violent acts that occurred were
really just
Spoiler
random. The truck hijacker admitted that no one hired him. He
stole because he needed the money. He just told Isaac which of his
competitors he was able to get cash for the stolen oil. But the
hijackings weren't coordinated by Isaac's competitors.


Also there was no resolution to the threat at Isaac's
Spoiler
new house. That stalker was not revealed or connected later in the
film to Isaac's competitors. Add in that the stalker is likely
amateurish, Isaac's kids finds a gun outside where Isaac and the
stalker collided. Given that the truck hijackers were random, I'm
led to think that the stalker outside the house was just a random
thief.


Yes, the violence against Isaac's
Spoiler
salesmen was NOT random. But it more like territorial infringement.
Isaac's salesmen must have been going into the claimed territory
of the mob. Isaac needs to better know which areas are up for
competition and which areas the mob has drawn a line around.


That year was the most violent year in New York city because of the
economic recession, unemployment, etc. And it seems to me, most
of the violence in A Most Violent Year wasn't connected to the film's
characters' choices regarding violence. Much of the violence was
really
Spoiler
random.
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Old 05-16-2015, 03:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timcharger View Post
That year was the most violent year in New York city because of the
economic recession, unemployment, etc. And it seems to me, most
of the violence in A Most Violent Year wasn't connected to the film's
characters' choices regarding violence. Much of the violence was
really
Spoiler
random.
I can't help but also connect the scene where Isaac's car
Spoiler
hits a deer. At first the audience thinks it is some threatening violent
act that is sending a message to Isaac and his family. Yes, I like how
that scene made it blatantly obvious how Isaac's wife is willing to use
a gun. But that scene also matches the pattern of the false sense of
the violence being meaningful. But the deer was just random.

Last edited by timcharger; 05-16-2015 at 04:21 AM.
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