A Most Violent Year (2014)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every time Abel tries to take the moral high ground (do so responsibly)

Take a Drink: if that’s not the worst thing to have happen at a birthday party.

Do a Shot: Cause it’s hard out there for a businessman.

Community Review


Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (Half a Beer) –

What grade of Al Pacino do you prefer with your movie? Subtle and intense or over the top and lazy? This is almost like asking what kind of Nicolas Cage does one prefer – the obvious answer being over the top (but never lazy). In Pacino’s case, he’s best when left to simmer and stew over the course of a film. To let him boil over from the get go and throughout is just wasteful.


Wasteful, unless he’s playing David Spade.

This grading can be applied to filmmaking as well, and we all have our tastes – tastes that work for some, and some not so much. For crime thrillers, what do we prefer? Slow go or a fast punch to the gut?

A Toast

A Most Violent Year is near perfect Pacino grade filmmaking, being slow and subtle across the board. It’s a movie paced at the speed of life (yes, I just typed that), without ever being completely dull. It’s a movie acted at the speed of individual understanding, never being too quick about information or emotions. It’s a movie about business loans on the surface, and the state of corruption at a place and time in America under the surface. It’s a movie where one man is tested at every turn, and trapped by his own ambitions.

Oh, is this a movie.

J.C. Chandor, who previously directed Robert Redford on a boat, takes on the heating oil industry in early 80’s New York. Honestly, I couldn’t have made up a potentially less interesting subject matter if I tried. However, J.C. exhibits a level of dynamism in his direction, from the photography to the editing, that keeps things going at a suspenseful pace. Meetings with tennis aficionados and in barber shops take on hidden meaning when done with an unsettling calm behind them. It’s almost as if the story were taking place within the eye of a Hurricane – danger surrounds you, but for the moment, all appears kind of ok. This is masterful mood setting.


And what a mood it is!

Is Oscar Isaac 70’s Pacino reincarnated? I could’ve easily been fooled when watching this movie. I’d be willing to bet that the look was the result of collaborative conversations between the actor and director. That hair and those clothes make him LOOK the part, but Oscar exudes the part with his ATTITUDE. He’s very professional throughout, all business. But, every word that is said by him is done with subtext attached, either told through body language or tone of voice. It can be hard to notice here and there, but he’s doing it, by gum.

Oh, is he doing it.

Much being done right now.


Half a Beer

Has Abel told you that he wants his business to remain clean yet? Cause he wants his business to remain clean. Cleanliness is next to godliness, you know. Just let him keep his business clean already, huh!?


The Pacino Grading Spectrum might not catch on in the near future, but I suspect the Cage one will. A Most Violent Year was quite the surprise, not only given its title, but also its lack of a release. Yeah, dummies might be “disappointed” by it in the same way they were with Lord of War, but try and ignore that, Hollywood. THIS is the stuff we could use more of.


About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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