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A Most Violent Year

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Most Violent Year
A black and white photo of a male and female
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJ. C. Chandor
Written byJ. C. Chandor
Produced byJ. C. Chandor
Neal Dodson
Anna Gerb
CinematographyBradford Young
Edited byRon Patane
Music byAlex Ebert
Distributed byA24
Release date
  • November 6, 2014 (2014-11-06) (AFI Fest)
  • December 31, 2014 (2014-12-31) (United States)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$12 million[3]

A Most Violent Year is a 2014 American crime drama film written and directed by J. C. Chandor. The film stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain with Alessandro Nivola, David Oyelowo, Albert Brooks, and Catalina Sandino Moreno. Isaac plays Abel Morales, the owner of a small heating-oil company who is stressed by the competitiveness in the oil trade and from having to secure costly loans to expand his business. When his trucks start being hijacked, he faces increased pressure for his drivers to arm themselves.

The film premiered as the opening film of AFI Fest on November 6, 2014, and it was released theatrically on December 31, 2014. Despite critical praise, the film was a box-office bomb, grossing $12 million on a budget of $20 million; J. C. Chandor, Neal Dodson, and Anna Gerb won the National Board of Review Award for Best Film.


In 1981 New York Abel Morales is the owner of an up-and-coming company that has suffered the hijacking of several trucks, each carrying heating oil worth thousands of dollars. One driver, Julian, is severely beaten when his truck is hijacked by two unknown assailants. Abel's wife, Anna Morales, beseeches Abel to fight violence with violence, but he refuses. Morales and his company are under investigation by Assistant District Attorney Lawrence, who seems determined to expose price fixing, tax evasion, and various other illegalities allegedly committed by Morales and his competitors in the heating oil business.

As a way to secure financial independence for himself and trump his competitors, Abel, with the help of his attorney, Andrew Walsh, brokers a deal with a group of Hasidim, led by Joseph Mendellsohn, to purchase a fuel oil terminal on the East River. This will allow his company to directly import fuel oil from barges and to store far more oil in the summertime when fuel oil prices are lower. He makes a large down payment of 40 percent of the value of the property with the agreement that he will close in 30 days—if he fails to do so, the Hassidim will sell the terminal to one of Morales' competitors and keep the down payment.

After moving into a new home Morales prevents what appears to be an attempted burglary, but the next day one of his daughters finds a loaded handgun dropped in the bushes by the perpetrator. Suspecting this intimidation is coming from his competitors, he begins to confront them one by one; each one denies any intimidation and theft to drive him out of business. The head of the Teamsters encourages Morales to arm his drivers with handguns and fake permits that he can secure for him. Morales refuses, believing that such a move could bring down even more heat on his operation from the authorities and potentially ruin his legitimate business connections with a bank financing his business.

Returning to work after weeks of rehabilitation, Julian is again accosted by criminals, this time on the Queensboro Bridge in broad daylight. Carrying a firearm without Abel's knowledge or permission, he engages in a shootout with the hijackers, which results in the police arriving and chasing Julian and the other assailants, who all escape. This incident once again shifts Morales and his company into the spotlight of not only Lawrence but also the bank, which informs him that, due to the impending criminal indictments and this unfortunate public incident, it can no longer finance his purchase of the terminal.

Desperate, and needing $1.5 million to close the deal on the property, he approaches one of his competitors, Saul Leftkowitz and his granddaughter, who agree to give him a $500,000 loan for 20 percent interest and equity in the company for the term of the agreement. He manages to raise another $200,000 by taking out a mortgage loan against an apartment building he and his younger brother own jointly. With time passing quickly, he intercepts a radio call for help from one of his drivers, reporting that his truck is being hijacked. Being nearby, he pursues the stolen truck. Eventually catching up with attacking one of the hijackers, Morales demands to know who the mastermind is. The hijacker denies he was hired by anyone but reveals that he sold his last stolen shipment in Far Rockaway. Morales confronts a competitor who has facilities in Far Rockaway, threatening to alert the federal authorities as the stolen fuel is marked. He agrees to pay Morales more than $200,000 for stolen fuel oil.

As Morales is getting closer to his $1.5 million goal, he visits Mafia-affiliated Peter Forente to ask for another $600,000. Forente agrees to give him the loan, but on very unfavourable terms. Dismayed at having to leverage his company to such a high degree in order to secure the loan, Morales tells Anna about the loan. She confesses that she has been skimming from the company for years and has been hiding the money in a secret account for their benefit. The secret funds are enough to cover the money that Forente had agreed to lend, and Anna convinces Abel to use the money instead of taking the loan from Forente.

Having the money he now needs, Morales and Walsh pay off his creditors and secure the terminal. As Abel, Anna and Walsh are looking over the property, they are approached by an angry and confused Julian carrying a gun. He blames Morales for his problems, believing that he should also be entitled to some of Morales' good fortune. Morales rejects his pleas. Despondent by his status as a fugitive, Julian commits suicide in front of Abel, Anna, and Walsh. As the police show up with Lawrence to investigate the suicide, Morales says that the broader investigations into his firm are hurting his business, and that they should find a conclusion at some point. Lawrence agrees in general terms and suggests that the new oil terminal will develop Morales' business and give him "political influence." Lawrence then hints that Morales might be able to help him with his higher aspirations. Morales claims that he has always taken the path that is "most right".



On May 23, 2013, Deadline reported that filmmaker J. C. Chandor would write and direct A Most Violent Year, which was to begin shooting in the fall.[11] Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb co-produced the film along with FilmNation Entertainment's Glen Basner as executive producer.[11] On January 22, 2014, A24 Films acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the film, which A24 then scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2014.[12] The film was co-financed by Image Nation and Participant Media, and produced by Before the Door Pictures and Washington Square Films.[8]


On June 5, 2013, Javier Bardem joined the film to play the lead.[13] On July 16, 2013, Jessica Chastain joined the cast to play the lead role along with Bardem.[5] On December 3, 2013, Oscar Isaac officially replaced Bardem.[4] On January 27, 2014, Albert Brooks joined the film, playing Isaac's character's attorney,[8] and actress Catalina Sandino Moreno also joined the film in a supporting role.[9] On January 29, 2014, while the film's shooting was underway, David Oyelowo joined the cast.[7] Other cast members include Ashley Williams, Elyes Gabel, Harris Yulin, Giselle Eisenberg, and Elizabeth Marvel.[10] On February 21, 2014, Alessandro Nivola was cast to play Peter Forente, a heating oil distributor who is a competitor to Isaac's character.[6]


Principal photography began on January 29, 2014, in New York City.[7][14]


The musical score for A Most Violent Year was composed by Alex Ebert, who previously collaborated with director Chandor on All Is Lost (2013).[15] Influenced musically by the culture and life of the 1980s, specifically thinking of Miami Vice and Scarface, Ebert predominantly utilized synthesizers.[16] "It's a synthesis of sort-of calling-card themes and extended atmospheres. There’s horns and flutes and strings, but there’s also sort of these meditative synthetic beds underlying."[17]

A soundtrack album was released by Community Music on December 16, 2014.[18]


The film had its world premiere at the AFI Fest on November 6, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The film was released in four United States theaters on December 31, 2014, by A24 Films and expanded from there to a nationwide release.[19] In the United Kingdom, the film was released by Icon Film Distribution.[20]

Critical response

A Most Violent Year received very positive reviews, with many critics comparing Chandor's style in this film favorably to the works of Sidney Lumet, and praise given to the performances of Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 90%, based on 232 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Gritty, gripping, and weighted with thought-provoking heft, A Most Violent Year represents another strong entry in writer-director J.C. Chandor's impressive filmography."[21] Metacritic gave the film a score of 79 out of 100, based on reviews from 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[22]

Business Insider's Brett Arnold wrote that the movie "may be slow, but it's never dull."[23] Variety's Scott Foundas compared it to Chandor's previous film saying the movie is "a tough, gritty, richly atmospheric thriller that lacks some of the formal razzle-dazzle of his solo seafaring epic, 'All Is Lost,' but makes up for it with an impressively sustained low-boil tension and the skillful navigating of a complex plot."[24] The Wrap's Alonso Duralde praised the director, proclaiming that Chandor "firmly plants himself among this generation's great filmmakers."[25] Chastain was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Top-ten lists

A Most Violent Year was listed on many critics' top 10 lists.[26]


Award Date of Ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Central Ohio Film Critics Association January 8, 2015 Best Film A Most Violent Year 9th Place [27][28]
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated
Best Original Screenplay J. C. Chandor Nominated
Actor of the Year Jessica Chastain Nominated
Golden Globe Awards January 11, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [29]
Chicago Film Critics Association December 15, 2014 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [30]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 11, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [31]
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 15, 2014 Best Supporting Actress 4th Place [32]
Florida Film Critics Circle December 19, 2014 Best Supporting Actress 3rd Place
Georgia Film Critics Association January 9, 2015 Best Picture A Most Violent Year Nominated [33][34]
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated
Gotham Awards December 1, 2014 Best Actor Oscar Isaac Nominated [35]
Houston Film Critics Society January 10, 2015 Best Picture Nominated [32]
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards February 21, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [36]
Best Screenplay J. C. Chandor Nominated
Best Editing Ron Patane Nominated
Indiana Film Journalists Association December 15, 2014 Top 10 Films Won [37]
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Won
Iowa Film Critics January 7, 2015 Best Movie Yet to Open in Iowa A Most Violent Year (tied with American Sniper) Tied [38]
London Film Critics' Circle January 18, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated [39]
Technical Achievement Award Kasia Walicka-Maimone (costumes) Nominated
National Board of Review December 2, 2014 Best Film Neal Dodson, Anna Gerb, J. C. Chandor Won [40]
Best Actor Oscar Isaac (tied with Michael Keaton for Birdman) Tied
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Won
New York Film Critics Online December 7, 2014 Top Ten Films Won [41]
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle January 5, 2015 Best Picture 9th Place [42]
Online Film Critics Society December 15, 2014 Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated [43]
Phoenix Film Critics Society December 16, 2014 Best Film Nominated [44][45]
Top 10 Films Won
Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated
Best Original Screenplay J. C. Chandor Nominated
Best Cinematography Bradford Young Nominated
San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards December 14, 2014 Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated [46]
Best Original Screenplay J. C. Chandor Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association December 15, 2014 Best Supporting Actress Jessica Chastain Nominated [32]
Utah Film Critics Association December 17, 2014 Best Supporting Actress Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association February 21, 2015 Best Supporting Actress Nominated [47]
Best Actor Oscar Isaac Nominated
Whistler Film Festival December 10, 2014 Audience Award A Most Violent Year Won [48]


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External links

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