Sometimes movie titles are misleading. A new film called A MOST VIOLENT YEAR (starring Oscar Issac and Jessica Chastain) is a prime example.
The film tells the gripping story of one man's struggle to succeed in the heating oil business in the New York area in 1981, a year which saw that city's highest ever crime rates.
But this is no shoot-em-up.
Instead, it's about this man's attempt to operate fairly without resorting to violence in a business dominated by gangsters and other rivals who will lie, cheat, steal, and even physically attack his employees.
(SOT—CLIP) (Oil tanker driver is attacked)
Union guy: These are dangerous times and we have to adapt. It's not like when we was driving.
Oscar Issac is Abel Morales, the serious and always impeccably dressed owner of a heating oil company. Thieves are attacking his tanker drivers and stealing his oil.
His lawyer wants him to arm the drivers. But Abel refuses to resort to violence even after he chases a goon away from home.
Abel: Where did you get that?
Anna: Your youngest daughter found it in the bushes outside the front door. It's not a brick through a car window. This is your kid playing with a loaded gun.
Abel: I know what it is. Let me deal with it.
Anna: Oh you better. You're not gonna like it once I get involved.
That's Jessica Chastain, as Anna, Abel's determined wife who just happens to be the daughter of the gangster who sold Able the company he runs.
Abel is under siege in other ways, also. He's under investigation by the Feds.
Anna: My husband is a good man; don't mistake his honesty for weakness. He deserves respect. This was very disrespectful.
Abel: I run a fair and clean business and I will fight to my last breath to prove that.
On top of everything else, Abel desperately needs money right away to close the deal on some river front property that will boost his business.
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR is the kind of movie that knows how the world works, that shows how even an essentially honorable man like Abel must compromise his principles to compete with people who have no principles except greed and self-interest.
This movie is also a rich character study of a marriage in which each partner really cares about the other in spite of some pretty glaring differences. The acting is great, and the thought provoking script keeps delivering new discoveries right up to the end.