A crime drama set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically one of the most violent years in the city’s history, and centered on the lives of an immigrant and his family trying to expand their business and capitalize on opportunities as the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.
Oscar Isaac : Abel Morales
Jessica Chastain : Anna Morales
Albert Brooks : Andrew Walsh
Director : J.C. Chandor
“If I were you, I would start treating us with a little more respect or I guarantee he will make it his mission in life to ruin you.”
New York, 1981. The most violent year in the history of the metropolis New York. No doubt about it, but that violence probably took place somewhere else than where this film took place. Are you expecting some sort of mafia film like “Once upon a time in America“, “The Godfather“, “Scarface” or “The Untouchables” ? Well sorry, but this will be a disappointment for you because it’s not such type of mafia movie. Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is the opposite of a Don Corleone. Anything that smells like mafia stuff or corruption, he tries to avoid studiously. He’s trying to run his business in oil fair and square, without falling back on violent and corrupt interventions. And this despite the tough competition which apparently has no problem with applying harsh and intimidating methods. Abel, the epitome of honesty in these turbulent criminal years, faces terrified truck drivers and an increasing loss because of stolen oil. This together with an investigation by the District Attorney Lawrence (David Oyelowo), who is determined to uncover wrongdoings, ensures that an investment Morales trying to finalize with some Jewish businessmen, will be compromised and is doomed to fail.
I’ll be honest though. The performances are spectacular. Isaac plays the stubborn manager masterfully. Despite all the setbacks and the enormous pressure he remains determined on the outlined course he doesn’t want to deviate from. Despite the warning from a union man that the truck drivers will abandon him and the continuing distrust of his wife Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain), who apparently has a mafia past, has a dizzying cleavage and commits the only violent offense in this film (with a poor deer as the victim), he doesn’t want to yield to unfair practices. He fits perfectly in snowy New York. He’s as cool and chilly. And that was my biggest problem with the characters. They are all totally numb. Anna is even colder than Abel. The only one who showed some emotions was Julian (Elyes Gabel) whose fear and desperation were believable.
I’ve also seen A.J. Chandor’s film “All is lost” long time ago and can only conclude that this film fits perfectly. “All is lost” was also visualized beautifully with an unusual rendition, but painfully slow and boring. Brilliant performances, elaborate personalities and expressive character roles serve as the foundation of timeless classics. But when a movie only contains that and has nothing else interesting to offer, you can be sure that a large part of the audience will be slightly disappointed. Including me.