Front Row at the Movies
Was 1981 in NYC "A Most Violent Year"?
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
I lived in New York City in 1981, but I don’t recall ever encountering any danger. Yet statistics show that it was a violent year in the city's history.But the most violent?
Certainly, the City has had its episodes of violence. In 1964 Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death while onlookers failed to come to her rescue. In the summer of 1976 Son of Sam followed his dog’s orders to kill people. In 1982 a black subway worker was beaten to death by a white mob. In late 1984 Bernie Goetz took justice into his own hands, shooting four muggers on a Manhattan train. In 1989 a female Central Park jogger was assaulted by five juveniles. And 1991 saw riots in Crown Heights.
A new film titled "A Most Violent Year" focuses on the year 1981. This period piece is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.
The film’s promotion claims that this was the most violent year in the City’s history. Not so. Fact is, 1991 was the year with the highest murder rate in New York, a total of 2,245. By comparison, 1981 only had 1,826.
Starring Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, "A Most Violent Year" tells about an immigrant family trying to protect their business as the City’s violence escalates. Some moviegoers complain that there is no story. Maybe not much of one, but instead you have a fascinating character study of an "honorable man" trying to retain his honor amid a corrupt environment.
Abel Morales (Isaac) built his home oil business with hard work and determination, his pursuit of the American Dream. But when hijackings threaten his family’s way of life, he will push back however is necessary.
"My husband's an honorable man. We are not who you think we are," warns Abel’s wife (Chastain). "…So 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."
Yes, there’s plenty of tension and nuance in this understated crime drama. So if you’re looking for a Martin Scorsese gangster flick, try something else. But if you want some superb acting and personal drama, writer-director J.C. Chandor ("Margin Call"") delivers the goods.
Julian says, "I feel … vulnerable."
"Good," replies Abel. "Because you are vulnerable. We all are."
Maybe not so much as we once was. Last year murders had been reduced to 326 in New York City.