A Most Violent Year Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

New York, winter 1981, Manhattan. Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), a Latin American immigrant, runs a fuel trucking business. The business is developing quite actively, Abel is very ambitious and has big plans for the future. At the same time, he tries to conduct business as honestly as possible and does not accept the solution of issues by bandit methods.

A couple of years earlier, Abel had begun negotiations with a New York Hasid who owned a small fuel depot. The site is quite expensive, but it is very important for Morales, because it gives him access to the sea – this greatly reduces the cost of further transportation of fuel.

The contract for the sale, which the Hasid agreed to, is drawn up quite cunningly. Abel must hand over 40% of the money in cash, and then within 30 days to transfer the remaining one and a half million dollars. Morales does not have that kind of money, but he has a good relationship with a bank that has been lending to his business for a long time, and Abel hopes that there will be no problems with the loan.

Meanwhile, the crime situation in New York is extremely difficult. Morales’ cars are periodically attacked, with the drivers ending up in the hospital and the fuel disappearing. And then there’s District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo) indicting Abel’s firm of fourteen counts. Morales knows that he is doing business honestly, but the accusations from the prosecutor – all this unsettles him, and, worst of all, the bank, having heard about the problems with the prosecutor’s office, categorically refused a loan, so now Morales can lose everything altogether.


I have been wanting to see this movie for a long time. I really like Oscar Isaac, and Jessica Chastain is a strong actress, especially when she is in decent films, and not in any glossy bullshit like The Great Game.

In addition, “The Most Violent Year” was the best film of 2014 according to the US National Board of Film Critics. Not that I strongly trust film critics, especially American ones, but nonetheless. The same council presented the Best Actor Award to Oscar Isaac and Best Supporting Actress to Jessica Chastain.

A few critics praise the picture very much and call JC Chandor the new Sidney Lumet. Also in the reviews, “The Most Cruel Year” for some reason is compared with Martin Scorsese and almost with “The Godfather”, although this is more than surprising.

The “criminal” drama here is very conditional, here it is rather criminal to stage the film according to such an indistinct scenario, to which Bublik and I had a whole bunch of complaints.

However, I must say that the film still surprised us, if only because we could not immediately unravel the director’s intention. At first we were sure that this ostentatious desire of Abel to remain as clean as possible, doing a rather complex and tough business at the peak of the crime situation in New York (1981 was really absolutely terrible in this regard), in the end, will end up with the fact that he finally take a gun and go to blow someone’s brains out. In this case, the picture would, of course, greatly benefit both in terms of dynamics and interest for the viewer.

But no, the main idea of ​​JC Chandor, writer and director of the picture, was to show how Morales will dig deeper and deeper into solid troubles, but at the same time not a speck of dust will stick to his luxurious light brown coat.

Therefore, the picture does not look like a criminal, but like a purely industrial drama, moreover, the drama is spherical, and even in the vacuum of plot ideas. Because there’s not much credibility here at all.

There are films that you seem to watch with interest and only at the end of the viewing you think: what kind of nonsense did they do here? And here it’s even worse: from the very beginning, the plot raises continuous questions and by the end the questions are only growing. I will definitely ask these questions, but after the review, so as not to spoil for those who want to watch this film.

And there is something to see here. Oscar Isaac is a very bright and versatile actor. He also has a very peculiar origin: Guatemalan-French-Jewish-Cuban. Yes, yes, the mother is a Guatemalan with French roots, the father is a Cuban with Jewish roots. So Oscar, with his characteristic appearance, looks very authentic in the roles of Jews, and in the roles of Latin Americans, and in the roles of Cubans, and in the roles of Arabs. However, he is still quite fluent in Spanish and French.

Here Isaac is very good – within the limits that a weak script allows. A self-confident person who is able to set himself difficult tasks and achieve them. In the scene of the meeting with competitors, whom he suspects of attacking his cars and his house, something like Michael Corleone peeps through – it’s a pity that the purely scripted meeting looks ridiculous.

By the way, while looking through the information about the screenwriter/director, I suddenly found out that it was he, according to his script, who staged the ridiculous action movie “Triple Frontier”, where Oscar Isaac also played the main role. Well, then, stupid scripts are his trademark.

Jessica Chastain also looks very dignified here. She has a character – a kind of tear. If the hero of Isaac is trying his best not to become a gangster and adheres to exclusively legal methods, then his wife Anna is just the daughter of a famous New York gangster and she just does not differ in particular scrupulousness. An interesting tandem between the two of them turned out. (By the way, Jessica Chastain is not inferior to Oscar Isaac in terms of the number of blood: a quarter is Basque, one eighth is Greek, and among her ancestors were English, Germans, French, Dutch, Northern Irish and Scots.)

Abel’s lawyer Andrew Walsh also plays an important role in the film. He was played by Albert Brooks, and I didn’t like him at all here.

Interestingly, the original composition of the rest of the actors was supposed to be completely different. Abel was supposed to be played by Javier Bardem (it could also be interesting), his wife – Charlize Theron, and Stanley Tucci was expected to play the role of a lawyer (that would be a bomb). However, Bardem had a disagreement with JC Chandor (apparently, Javier read the script), he abandoned the project, and as a result, the cast changed.

From a staging point of view, everything is done very well here: authentic New York of those years, cars, manner of dressing, and so on. But alas – I was spoiled by the indistinct script.

Why all of a sudden the critics are so praising this film, which at least represents something only because of the acting, I don’t understand at all. However, at the box office, this picture failed with a wild crash.

PS Well, now let’s talk about my claims to the script. The text, of course, will contain spoilers, so for those who are going to watch the picture, it is better not to read further.

First. Why suddenly Morales, who, like, for two years, persuaded a Hasid to sell him a plot, was not ready for the deal itself – when it was already clear that they had agreed? Why was it impossible to take a loan from a bank in advance and close the deal at once? Conditions under which he pays one million three hundred in cash, and the remaining 60% must be transferred within a month, and if he does not transfer, then he loses this million three hundred – is he an idiot? I understand, of course, that this is generally the whole intrigue of the plot, but really it was impossible to come up with something smarter?

Third. What’s with the weird hit-and-run on his DA’s office? Morales did not cheat in business. The prosecutor did not demand money for the “departure”. At the same time, when Morales did buy the plot, the prosecutor immediately ran to him on tsyrly and began to tell that he wanted to go into politics and he needed serious business support.

Fourth. What kind of person was ball-fucking near their house, who was scared away by Morales and who also lost his gun? According to the film, it seems that this is somehow connected with attacks on his cars and with pressure from competitors, but we will not learn anything more about this person.

Fifth. Why is Morales such a slut all of a sudden? It clearly follows from the film that he married the daughter of a major crime boss. Where did Morales, who came to the States bare-assed (like those Latin Americans who work for him as drivers), get the money to promote such a serious business? Well, obviously he borrowed from his father-in-law, from whom else? At the same time, he is engaged in a very criminogenic business, where sissies simply do not survive. Then I would go to trade in stationery, that’s where you can be neat. And that – not in New York of those times.

Sixth. What kind of muddy salesmen he trains at the beginning of the movie? What are they selling for him? According to the film, one of these guys comes to an ordinary house. Does he offer them to buy a fuel tanker? And from what hangover the guy is attacked – who the hell?

Seventh. What’s the story with the attacks on his drivers? Okay – Morales objected to the drivers being armed. But if he was losing such serious money on the theft of fuel, then what prevented him from hiring normal security for his cars. To put one armed trained person in the cockpit is already a hell of a two after that, cars would be kidnapped. Considering the fact that the losses from the kidnapping amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, he could afford this.

Eighth. How did he end up getting the money he needed. His wife slowly pearled money from the accounts, and as a result she got more than a million. Pure business, no fraud. A million slowly flowed, as if from a bush. If he had such wild money spinning there, from which one could steal a million quite imperceptibly, then why didn’t he have one and a half million to buy a plot?

In general, all this is very strange, crooked and illogical. The script is just completely out of line. But the critics are raving.


A Most Violent Year movie meaning

Director: JC Chandor Cast: Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo, Elyes Gabel, Lorna Preus, Christopher Abbott, Matthew Meher, Jerry Adler

Budget: $20M, Worldwide Grossing: $12M
Crime drama, USA, 2014, 125 min.

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