Saturday, 24 January 2015
REVIEW: A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
125 Minutes. Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo & Albert Brooks. Director: J.C. Chandor.
Roses are red, violence is blue...but is Oscar not gold? The Academy must be in a haze when it comes to Issac for the time being, because this next great actor is in a stage of his own right now. So much so that in the United Kingdom today he's in competition with himself, as this film comes out at the same time as the artificial intelligence of 'Ex Machina'. A film that has been drawing a wave of rave reviews in this digital age. Taking it back to New York City, 1981 with 'All Is Lost' visionary director J.C. Chandor however, nothing is milk carton absent in the past here. Even an Oscar snub cant dim the light of this 80's winter, N.Y.C, crime drama that is dripping with Scorsece sweat out the pours. Leading and looking halfway between Pacino and De Niro, the character chameleon Oscar wears many coats. But this sand/cream cut, draped over a suit number is far from the 'Goodfellas' of another tired, old mob flick. Save that for the 'Godfather', there's even some tongue in nodding smile cheek to "walking around like gangsters" here. Despite its 'Most Violent' name this isn't exactly that darling. Far from the 'Ultraviolence' of a Lana Del Ray album, even if there is a Brooklyn baby here, or the 'American Gangster' of the American dream this is something that doesn't shoot much more than your average number of bullets from the clip. But a sick straight shooter that sees the man who made his name as great acting folk in 'Inside Llewyn Davis' after his full throttle start up in 'Drive', do the right thing so much that that's probably the reason you won't see him in Hollywood next month. No matter, he's about to add science fiction and comic book stardom to his already fame studded jacket with 'Star Wars', 'The Force Awakens' and his 'Apocalypse' villain in the next 'X-Men' movie. Besides who needs an Oscar when you are one.
Issac is charming and compelling as the pied piper of what just may be his best picture amongst all the sci-fi and big names. This is his moment and between all the long hair, big beards to buzz cuts, oil slicked back, this man has never looked better in classic Armani, driving round in a vintage Mercedes. This is the kind of life the big bucks of real business studies brings you...and this is an ethics lesson on just that. With Oscar just trying to get his slice of the American dream the right way, between cops breathing suspicion down his turtle necks and mob hits trying to jack his dollars by the truckload, everyone wants to have his cake and eat it too. Between our leading mans smart tie restrained passion and emotion and his cufflink removed, shirt rolled up depth of determination, its lucky this man has more than a trophy wife by his side, playing as they say the Lady Macbeth to his modern day morale fable of Scorsese Shakespeare. Chain smoking and chain gang working the numbers she punches in with a pen, all whilst Vogue-ing a Madonna haircut and being the toast of a cocktail dress that will leave you punch drunk in love, Jessica Chastain is perfect here. So where's her nomination too? 'The Help' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' brought her the awaited acclaim she deserved and since then, going 'Lawless' and 'Interstellar' this year has made her stock soar. Now this is her moment too on her own hot streak. Beside and behind that too she's an incredible revolution in another chameleonic, almost unrecognizable performance to the famous finger wagging. Thus making her and Issac the perfect cinematic couple in more ways than one. So where are the nominations Oscar? This was very disrespectful.
Isn't that right David Oyelow? You didn't just cameo alongside Chastain in Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar', you are familiar with your own films Academy snub right now, as your superb turn in 'Selma' as the great Martin Luther King Jnr should have inspired the world of awards. Still even your integral D.A. with integrity here is worthy of an honour. Nothing like some fine detective work to make a crime drama that much more dramatically thrilling by the novel idea book. The breakout star of the 'Planet Of The Apes' and 'Jack Reacher' franchises is about to have his own monster blockbuster year with the 'Jurassic World' main attraction, but right now the man that brings drama to the civil rights films of 'The Butler' and his M.L.K. one is also helping paint a portrait of a significant time in American history. As title stated, the year in the city of New York that was the most violent has more cast hits on this recognisable line-up roll call. There's depth of acting across the Hudson, even up to the Jon Voight in 'Ali' unrecognizable look of Albert Brooks. Issac's 'Drive' co-star who ages like a disgraceful Rutger Hauer, with square glasses and a blonde on grey centre parting. Just another look at how much we can possibly see from this talented look of veteran acting. Matter of fact, this whole 80's number looks as captivating as its Manhattan skyline view or Marvin Gaye 'Inner City Blues' soundtrack that scores subtlety but cuttingly. Its just that compelling, from the cinematography to Chandor's sublime storytelling. For more thrills give chase to some action activating, running men scenes that build brilliant, bottle neck tension as well as lats. Still there is nothing more genuinely honest and groundingly humbled then Issac's role of big business and American dream reversal...and remember behind every great man is a woman like Jessica Chastain. Only the fellow slow-burning 'Foxcatcher' comes as cinematically classic, candle close as this modern masterpiece this three, six, five. Speaking of which, this 'Gone Girl', 'Nightcrawler', 'Birdman', 'Whiplash' et al dark side of the American dream themed Oscar season just got its moral centre in the most unlikely of places, in the core of the post seventies Big Apple. In its all business and big and bold, brutality bucking stand against violence this year, for that this Oscar and his Academy deserves the most. TIM DAVID HARVEY.