A Most Violent Year

Rated 4.0

Considering that the film is fairly humorless, the funniest aspect of A Most Violent Year might be that killer title. Yes, the film takes place in 1981 NYC, a pre-Giuliani time of astronomic crime rates, but the title tees up expectations of intensity and catharsis that writer-director J.C. Chandor has no intention of swinging at. Cinematically speaking, Chandor keeps a tight strike zone, and the measured, confident, almost chilly tone that permeates the film is largely responsible for the cold shoulder it received throughout the awards season. A Most Violent Year shares some stylistic and narrative DNA with Scorsese's Goodfellas, but Chandor's film inherited little of that 1990 classic's energetic, eager-to-please temperament. Goodfellas is about a man who “always wanted to be a gangster,” while the mostly righteous A Most Violent Year is about a man who wants to walk, talk and dress like a gangster, without actually being a gangster.