Some people are too clever for their own good. Take Oscar Issac. Not content with being a supremely talented musician and studying at the revered Juilliard School, he acted a stellar turn as n’er do well Llewyn Davis. ‘Well, that’s OK’, we thought, ‘the role was just an extension of his musical talent’. But now Oscar is back in serious drama A Most Violent Year. If he is good in this too, we will be sick.
It’s early 1980’s New York. Oscar plays Abel Morales, owner of a heating oil company on the brink of signing a deal for a large new storage plant to take his successful business to the next level. Married to coolly glamorous Brooklyn doll Anna (Jessica Chastain) and with two young girls and a stunning new house, all should be well in his world.
But it isn’t. Someone, presumably a rival company, has it in for Abel. His trucks are being hijacked, his drivers attacked and the police are taking an interest in the legitimacy of his profits. Unlike his dubious rivals Abel insists on doing everything by the book but, with his business and family threatened, finds the moral high ground increasingly hard to pursue.
Full of wintry New York skylines, mid-century modern interiors and self-conscious, considered dialogue, A Most Violent Year harks back to the classic gangster movies of the late 70’s. Yet this is an anti-gangster morality drama that asks how far can someone be pushed before their resolution breaks? Oscar, darn it, is stunningly good. Camel coated Abel is by turn a lone, passionate champion of morals and then slick charm personified, his hypnotically charismatic demonstration of how to close a sales deal practically had The Sloth reaching for our cheque book. Smartly scripted and prizing talk over action, this is a serious movie for grown ups.
NB may The Sloth take this time to suggest you go back and You Tube the sublime ‘Please Mr Kennedy’ song from Inside Llewyn Davis? We’re laughing just thinking about it, which reminds us again how good Oscar is. Please excuse us, we’re feeling a touch nauseous…
UK release 23 January