Star – Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac
Genre – Crime
Run Time – 125 minutes
Certificate – 18R
Country – USA
Amazon – £ DVD £ Blue Ray
Awards – 14 Wins & 45 Nominations
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
So post 1990 we haven’t had much Italian American mobster movie action of note, and if we do, it’s understated and tributary stuff rather than the sprawling all out cliché and body count stuff. It’s like we are not ever going back there. The Drop, a rather nostalgic post noir with the ubiquitous Tom Hardy and the now deceased James Gandolfini, was a good signpost to that retirement of the typical Hollywood Mafia character cliché as the two goons festered in the bar for most of that particular film. In real life the East Coast mafia has mostly been locked up and I suppose no point going back there anyway.
A Most Violent Year is another Scorcesesque tribute that flirts with those great mob movies of the 90s but doesn’t want to go there. But we want them to go there and that’s the problem. The cast is strong with little known and the impressive Oscar Isaac in the lead as the nefarious guy determined to run his business legitimately in an industry run by the mob and the unions. The always excellent Jessica Chastain is alongside as his wife and Golden Globe nominated for her efforts here. In fact this film contains three actors nominated for Academy Awards in the past: Catalina Sandino Moreno (Best Actress, 2004), Albert Brooks (Best Supporting Actor, 1987), and Jessica Chastain (Best Supporting Actress, 2011, and Best Actress, 2012).
• Oscar Isaac….. as Abel Morales
• Jessica Chastain…..as Anna Morales
• Alessandro Nivola…..as Peter Forente
• David Oyelowo….as Lawrence
• Albert Brooks…..as Andrew Walsh
• Catalina Sandino Moreno…..as Luisa
• Ashley Williams….as Lange
• Elyes Gabel….as Julian
• Jerry Adler….as Josef
• Christopher Abbott…. as Louis Servidio
• Elizabeth Marvel…..as Mrs. Rose
• Peter Gerety….. as Bill O'Leary
• Glenn Fleshler…. as Arnold Klein
• David Margulies…. as Saul Lefkowitz
• Annie Funke…. as Lorraine Lefkowitz
• Matthew Maher….. as John Dominczyk
• Jason Ralph…..as Ian Thompson
‘When it feels scary to jump, that is exactly when you jump, otherwise you end up staying in the same place your whole life, and that I can't do’.
Its 1981 in New York and the suave Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) runs the successful Standard Heating Oil Co, based down by the Staten Island docks. Recently the company has been undermined by the hijacking of its trucks, each carrying thousands of dollars in heating oil, siphoned off and sold to rivals by local goons. The cops don’t want to know as they know his company is involved in a corrupt industry and Assistant District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo) determined to expose price fixing, tax evasion, and various other illegalities committed by Morales and his competitors in the heating business.
It gets serious for Abel when one of his young drivers, Julian (Elyes Gabel), is severely beaten by two thugs when his oil truck is ‘boosted ‘at the turnpike toll. Abel doesn’t want to use his rival’s methods to protect trucks, normally armed teamster thugs on board, not the tit-for-tat road he wants to take. Abel's wife, Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain), on the other hand, who comes from a mob background, wants her husband to fight violence with violence and do something, especially when an intruder targets their house at night and the kids find the gun he discarded the next morning. But Abel refuses and wants to run his company with some sort of integrity during the growing crime wave in New York’s most violent year to date. But with the wife doing the books he has no real idea how his company is really being run and perhaps the wife is the one who should be making the big decisions around security. It will take only one phone call to her dad and they will be protected.
As a way to secure financial independence for himself and see off his competitors, Abel, with the help of his attorney, Andrew Walsh (Albert Brooks), decides to cut a deal with a group of Jewish landowners, led by Josef Mendellsohn (Jerry Adler), to purchase a fuel oil terminal on the East River. This will allow Standard Oil Company to directly import oil from barges and to store far more oil in the summertime in the vast tanks when fuel oil prices are lower. The plan is a down payment of 40% with the agreement that he will close the deal in just 30 days time with the remaining 60%, but if he fails to do so, the Jews will sell the terminal to one of Morales' competitors and keep the down payment. It’s a huge risk.
As the attacks in crease and the 30 days tick away his employees are increasingly scared, and his rivals ready for him to fall. If they can break him now he will never be able to recover. Its time for Abel to find out who his friends are and to see if he can rustle up enough money to save the deal and keep the authorities off his back without using the old ways he so arbores and his wife was bought up on.
Well it started well and with the polished acting, authentic locations and two well rounded characters up and running and ready to go. But it begins to drag at halfway as you realize this is not going to be the traditional mob business as usual movie. Capiche! It feels and plays ‘Scorcese lite’, as one critic put it, and no doubt the director borrowing from that 1980s heyday of the brash and punchy Italian American mob culture movie.
The soundtrack is there, as you would expect, and plenty of familiar greasy characters meeting in dark rooms with their ‘moma’ cooking the pasta. But this is more a film about immigration than organized crime as various immigrant groups stake their claim in a New York we don’t really recognize, the skyscrapers, like the familiar mob characters, merely a distant back drop here.
Isaac is excellent in the lead as the familiar handsome and charismatic Italian American leader of men and Jessica Chastain breezing through as the designer brand yummy mummy with the potty mouth. I think she could play any character if she really wanted to. Jessica Chastain is Mother Teresa!! But with a budget of just $20 million and the film restricting itself to the less than sexy oil terminal location and the more industrial New Jersey the glamour we were hoping for just isn’t there and this becomes a sort of anti mob movie with nobody getting ‘whacked’ and very little plot than the deal. A man wanting to buy an oil terminal and doesn’t want to use traditional mob methods to takeover the regional heating oil industry gently kills the movie.
As I say it’s so well acted and so you stick with it in hope of bigger moments but you can’t help pining for it to be another Goodfellas with cocaine, girls, seedy bars and guns everywhere. Buts it’s not to be and ends up a morality tale about immigration as the central premise of 1981 being the city’s most violent year kind of lost as we are out on Staten Island where that isn’t happening so much. It just falls a little flat and not the big move I wanted it to be. The fact it tanked and took just $12 mill suggest the fans agree with me and poor word-of-mouth killed its momentum in the multiplexes.
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (47,324votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 89% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 79%critic’s approval
-Audio Commentary –
JC Chandor, Neal Dobson and Anna Gerb talk about their movie.
There a lot of them folks with just about everyone contracted to a bit for the extras. But in my experience if people don’t enjoy the movie much they are even less likely to bother with the extras.
New Statesmen –‘This tale of crime, corruption and soft furnishings resembles a Sunday-supplement Scorsese’.
The Mail –‘ Instead of directing a movie that screams "HEY, IT'S THE '80S," he made one that looks, sounds, and feels like a refugee from that era, and lets the audience do the rest’.
Globe & Mail –‘Like that camel-hair coat Abel wears, A Most Violent Year is classy and commands respect, but a stronger pulse under the lapels would make us care much more’
Sunday Independent –‘Though possibly lacking a little bang bang for your buck, A Most Violent Year represents an absorbing, thoughtful and successful attempt to subvert the usual grisly gangster-chic stereotypes’.
Cape Town Rimes –‘While the title may suggest violence and mayhem, this film is actually a character drama and a stylish one at that. It is a restrained story that meticulously unpacks its characters and shows rather than tells’.
The Film Stage –‘ While it may not fully reach the heights of its potential, A Most Violent Year is still quite entertaining, and due to the level of artistic craft on display, it's always a pleasure to watch’.
Toronto Mail –‘A tight anti-thriller, one where the violence of the title is more implied than seen’.
Financial Times –‘A smartly scarifying drama-thriller whose characters are bled of their self-assurance, drop by drop, and so, in a voyeuristic way, are we’.
The Prince Charles Cinema, just off of London's bustling Leicester Square is the last independent cinema in central London. It shows new art-house releases and subtitled films, as well as 'theme' nights. It rarely shows new blockbuster releases as they are easily available at the big multiplexes nearby.
In the past I have seen foreign films here, but most recently I have gone along to a Grease or a Rocky Horror sing-a-long. They also do Frozen, Dirty Dancing and Sound of Music. We are encouraged to dress up and the Rocky Horror show includes goodie bags or 'props' to be used at key points in the film. This showings cost about £16 and are normally on Friday or Saturday nights. They also do theme nights for other cult movies and marathon days/nights for various trilogies or themed movies.
Normal films are cheaper and if you come mid-week during the day then you will find prices discounted. Generally prices are substantially cheaper than any of the other cinemas on Leicester Square.
There are two screens here, I have only been to the larger downstairs theatre, but neither are big. It is dark in the cinema but seats don't appear to be too worn or damaged. There is a small bar in the downstairs foyer with limited drinks and a pricey kiosk. There is are loos which aren't too bad considering the use they get when people are drinking quite a bit before a film.
If you are looking for a theme night or a sing-along night in central London then this place is worth checking out.
- both available here, albeit on different nights. Welcome to the oddest and most entertaining cinema in London, as well as the cheapest. You won't find the Prince Charles unless you're looking for it, so take an A-Z and when you find yourself in Leicester Square, locate the Haagen Daz on the corner near the Warner Bros cinema and walk up the dingy and unpromising side street that leads off the square. Up at the top on the left hand side you'll see a grubby looking building that gives absolutely no hint of the delights inside. There's a big sign saying Prince Charles which kinda gives the game away, but even so it looks more like the kinda place that shows skin flicks than the future of cinema. Inside, it doesn't look much more promising. It's all a bit tatty and battered, with strip lighting and a distinct lack of those toxic-looking taco and cheese thingys that you can buy in Warner Bros. The carpets look a little worse for wear and the auditorium itself has seen better days, tho' the screen (there's only one - but four screenings daily) is plenty big enough and there's more than enough seating. So far, so conventional. Yet in all other ways the Prince Charles is the absolute opposite of all the other mainstream cinemas on Leicester Square. For a start, it's cheap - no more than £4 per movie and as little as £1.99 if you're a student or go mid-day. Second, it doesn't show current movies. Third, it doesn't even really have a programme. The only fixtures are the regular showings of the Rocky Horror Show and the Sound of Music, of which more later. The rest of the listings look like someone's selected a list of movies to show by throwing darts at the catalogue of their local video shop. You might turn up on a Monday to find a kung fu triple bill, but return the next day and there'll be a couple of French arthouse pics and maybe an old classic like The Big Sleep. Try again the day after an
d you'll find musicals, maybe, or Westerns. There is no rhyme and reason behind it at all as far as I can see, which is why the best way to treat this place is to make a pledge with a mate to watch whatever's on and stick to it when you pitch up. The only consistency I have managed to find with their listings (which you can, incidentally, find in Time Out and I'm sure they're on the net somewhere) is that they have an uncanny knack of screening those films which you meant to see when they came out but never got round to it. Things like What To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Tea with Mussolini and Swingers. And then, of course, there are the Rocky Horror and Sound of Music events, not so much screenings as pilgrimage destinations for fanatics of both movies. I haven't been to the Sound of Music (every Friday) ones, which are a relatively recent innovation, but I understand that the idea is to be able to sing along loudly to all the songs. The Rocky Horror night is one not to be missed - you'll feel positively out of place if you're not wearing fishnets and black lipstick, and the outfits some punters come up with have to be believed. This is not a good place to come if you haven't actually seen the film before: for one, A large proportion of the audience are very keen to demonstrate their knowledge not only of the script, but the by-now-traditional heckles inspired by various lines - so what with all the shouting poor old Janet and co can't get a word in edgewise. There's also a floor show before the screening, just to get you in the mood, and heaven knows what happens afterwards - I've never dared stay to find out. Now, many of my recent ops seem to have ended with a comment along the lines of "a lot of fun but not somewhere for a romantic date", (single? Moi?) and this one is no exception. On the other hand, if you've been trying to find an appropriate time to confess your l
ove of cross dressing to your partner, this could be just the ticket....
The Prince Charles Cinema is something of an oddity.. it is located just off Leicester Square, behind Haagen-Dazs, and is notable for having the lowest priced tickets in the West End, at £2 (weekdays before 5pm) rising steeply to £2.50 in the evenings and at weekends! They have introduced a member's scheme where you roughly £5 for a years membership or £15 for life membership, otherwise the prices are £1 higher. It is a repertory cinema and shows films that are usually a couple of months past their release date, but if you want to catch a certain film on the big screen, it is worth the wait. As for the actual cinema, it has a small bar in the basement, and there is actually a dip in the auditorium, making it.. unique.. is the only word that springs to mind, but if you go, try to sit either at the front, or at the back, because the middle dips down a bit. Also, this is the cinema which shows (at a higher price!), the Rocky Horror Show at midnight every Friday night, and, that new addition to it's repertoire.. sing-along-a-sound of music, which is, well, exactly what it says. It shows every Friday evening (7.30pm, before the Rocky Horror Show) and Sunday at 1pm (for kids, whatever the age!). People go dressed as characters (nun is a particular favourite) but this is not (luckily) obligatory. It is one of those rare cinemas that has a character all of its own and if you are in London, it's always worth a visit.