Written and directed by J.C. Chandor
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo
It’s 1981 and New York is experiencing a wave of unprecedented violence. Abel Morales (Isaac), an ambitious immigrant, is struggling to protect his business as the violence begins to hit close to home.
This is a unique crime drama from writer and director J.C. Chandor (All Is Lost). The film stars Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), and David Oyelowo (Interstellar). The film premiered as the opening film of the 2014 AFI Fest.
This story is a slow burning crime drama with an interesting premise. The story starts slow and does a nice job building the world the story relies on. The story makes the interesting choice to remain vague in regards to the background of the characters. While this might work with the right payoffs, this seems to hurt the overall success of the movie. The film also features a title that could be viewed by many as ironic since the film doesn’t have the kind of action necessary to live up to expectations. With the tone similar to something the Coen brothers would make, this one just doesn’t know when to throw an uppercut. Instead, this is a film that’s missing the knockout punch.
The acting in this movie makes the best from the material. Oscar Isaac puts together a solid performance as the conflicted and ambitious businessman. His best moments come from the intense confrontations he has with a number of the characters in the film. This includes his many moments opposite Jessica Chastain. She also made the most from the material in this one. Her performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She brings out the cold and somewhat devious nature of her character with great skill. Finally, David Oyelowo does a nice job in this one as well. He rounds out the film with a solid performance that is severely limited by the role he was given. All three of these talented actors succeeded despite the writing and brought out some of the nice complexities in their roles.
This movie has an excellent visual style that plays with the light and shadow throughout the movie. This allows the tone of the film to really be accentuated from scene to scene. The movie also finds really nice ways to harness the power of color. Cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma) did a nice job keeping the visuals consistently beautiful. The music in this one also adds something special. Composer Alex Ebert (All Is Lost) harnessed the sounds of the 1980s through his choice in instrumentation. This helps to create a unique version of the era that plays well with the tone of the story.
This is a good movie that just doesn’t have the punch to live up to the title. The writing wastes a number of nice opportunities as it continually finds the easy way out for the characters in the film. This one is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the stars. The acting and the visuals allow this one to succeed when it really shouldn’t. I give this one 2.4 out of 5 stars.