Review: A Most Violent Year

 

There’s really not a great deal of violence in A Most Violent Year. Though set in 1981 New York City (a low period for the city marked by high crime rates), there are few visceral moments of bloodshed and brutality. What does exist is an almost constant threat of violence – around every corner and edit in the film, it feels as if some form of foul play sits in wait. The landscape of this version of New York City is bleak, crumbling and empty. The barren streets and rundown manufacturing plants aren’t exactly conducive to strolling about, but the lack of people in the background of the film gives you the feeling that they too are worried about those threats lurking in the shadows.

The real violence of the film, however, refers to the damage done to its main character’s (Abel Morales played exceedingly well by Oscar Isaac) view of the American capitalist framework and his moral approach to honest work resolving in honest returns. Morales wants to behave ethically – though he’ll take every advantage in marketing ploys, he doesn’t want to game the system or cheat his competitors. He feels he should reward those who succeed in his business (an oil company for home heating) and coach those who don’t in order to give them an opportunity to grow. Morales is a sharply dressed man with focus and drive that leads you to believe he WILL get what he wants. When he stares at you, you listen. He’s at a turning point in his business as he puts a huge down payment on a new parcel of land for expansion, but needs to come up with the rest of the capital to close the deal. He is warned up front by the old owners that they are happy to do business with him, but on their terms for their benefit. As Morales tackles problems of his trucks getting hijacked and being investigated for possible shady financial reporting, he struggles to gather up the remaining money needed to close the deal.

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Cinecast Episode 378 – Muckety-Mucks

 
We’re overshadowed this week by the landmark that is Film Junk’s 500th episode and we recognize that and love it! It’s a hell of an achievement and we’re so happy for the guys, our friends, that are the undisputed, longest running, movie podcast on the internet. Also one of our guys was on the show, so there’s that. With that out of the way, it’s old-school Cinecast time. Reviews, the requisite tangents and The Watch List. It feels good to free of constraints though we are low on snacks and alcohol. Suffice it to say, this is a much more laid back version of the Cinecast; i.e. our bread and butter, our roots. We talk at length about Jessica Chastain which stems from a spoiler discussion on the very solid, A Most Violent Year. The TV review gets its foothold back into The Cinecast with Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” and The Watch List covers Vietnam docs like you’ve never seen as well as the brilliance that is Mike Nichols and more Chastain. Like A Most Violent Year, we’re emboldened by our competition, encouraged by our friends and emboldened by our love of Cinema – even that which we are able to dig up in the barren multiplex landscape of January.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

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Trailer: A Most Violent Year

Last week we featured the stellar white poster for the J. D. Chandor (Margin Call, All is Lost) directed New York City crime flick, A Most Violent Year. Now we have the trailer which shows Oscar Isaac getting a bit freaked out at being accused of criminal behaviour in his ‘honest business,’ and Jessica Chastian shedding single tears on more than one occasion. Albert Brooks is in there too. While nothing exceptional exactly jumps out here, I’m pretty happy there are directors like Chandor makeing films that would be right at home in the 1940s or 1970s. That is to say, I will be there will bells on when the film opens on New Years Eve.

Finite Focus: Albert Brooks’ Gold Fish (Out of Sight)

Albert Brooks might feel a bit snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences considering all the critical love for his performance in Nicholas Winding Refn’s genre-delight, Drive. One has only to look at the image above to see why perhaps the Academy wasn’t overly keen on recognizing the picture in any category outside of Sound Editing. In all fairness, violent movies such as Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan and No Country for Old Men were all nominated recently besides violence. But I digress. Despite that many people feel that Brooks hasn’t done genre films before and the performance in Drive seemed to come out of nowhere. But really, Brooks did this kind of thing wonderfully in Stephen Soderberg’s highly entertaining Elmore Leonard adaptation, Out of Sight.

Take this scene where Don Cheadle shakes down Brooks’ white collar inmate in the prison library. On Oscar Nomination day, Cheadle will be playing the part of AMPAS, and this time George Clooney is too busy picking up his own Oscars to play defender to Brooks. Either way, no Gold(Fish) for the man, and that’s too bad.


UK Trailer for Winding Refn’s Drive

 

Cannot wait to finally see this in September. It looks like the Brits will be getting Nicholas Winding Refn’s drama-action-thriller Drive (Jandy’s Review) about the same time as those of us on this side of the pond.

A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

The UK trailer is tucked under the seat.

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LAFF 2011: Drive

The Los Angeles in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is a real place geographically – the garage on Reseda Blvd, the apartment building in Echo Park, the car chases through downtown and the canyon roads, the exit off Cahuenga past the Hollywood Bowl – these are all places I more or less recognize. On the other hand, the almost wall-to-wall techno music (reminiscent of Run Lola Run in its quieter moments), the arty slow-motion and slow-burn pacing of much of the film, and the enigmatic characterization of the main character, known only as “The Driver,” lend a surreal feel to the city I know. And that feeling is mirrored by the film itself. Drive both is and isn’t something familiar, weaving brutally realistic violence in with lyrical beauty, switching back and forth with rapid unexpectedness.

The otherwise unnamed Driver moves laconically between fixing cars at a garage in the Valley, doing driving stunts for the movies, and being a wheelman for robberies. He has simple rules for the latter – he’s there at a certain time and takes responsibility for five minutes of robbery and getaway. After that, the crooks are on their own. The opening sequence (which is excerpted for the Cannes clip so far acting as trailer) is one such job, and it is utter perfection as a self-contained sequence and as a teaser for the film. It balances patience and speed in the chase itself, while also showing with essentially zero dialogue exactly how good a driver this man is, both in terms of actual pedal-to-the-metal precision and street smarts of when to hang back and when to go for it. He drives methodically, but knows the right time to strike.

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