It wouldn't be surprising if you've never heard of A Most Violent Year as the film received a very limited release here in Australia and only remained in the top twenty films for a week. But since when has box office performance been a measure of a great film? Certainly not in this case with a finely crafted suspenseful drama.
Set in New York City during the winter of 1981, statistically the most dangerous year in the city’s history this gripping story plays out within a maze of rampant political and industry corruption plaguing the streets of a city in decay. The film follows one immigrants, Abel Morales, determined climb up a morally crooked ladder, where simmering rivalries and unprovoked attacks threaten his business, family, and above all his unwavering belief in the righteousness of his own path.
Perhaps my biggest, albeit still minor, gripe with the film is that the film only has one majorish "action" scene, and the end of the film is a bit anti-climactic. Despite the title, there is little violence in this film despite the constant threat of robberies, and despite the fact that the film is set in one of the most violent years in New York City for violent crimes it rarely plays out in the film.
Despite the title A Most Violent Year this isn't a violent, action-packed, film as one would expect, but rather an engrossing drama set in one of the most violent years in New York history with very occasional violence. Everything in this film just clicks, from the script to the acting and the set design to give us one of the best films in recent times.
A Most Violent Year is presented on Blu-Ray in the common AVC MPEG-4 video codec, and in the film’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Being set in the 1980s the film has been shot to reflect the visual style of the era - a muted colour palette with little vibrancy to the image even in the brighter scenes and it looks fantastic. The video bitrate is often well over 25Mbps according to our PS3 and the film retains a wonderful level of detail throughout, even in the many darker, muted scenes. Exterior shots of New York City also look superb.
Besides the primary lossless Audio track the only other track is an English Audio Description track encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps which is a little flat and disappointing. A single Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired Track is included on the Blu-Ray release of A Most Violent Year and will get the job done if you have a need for subtitles.
A Most Violent Year comes to Blu-Ray with a few extras with an audio commentary being a highlight as well as a 45-minute documentary on the making of the film. Here's what to expect...
Audio Commentary: This audio commentary features writer/director J.C. Chandor, and Producers Neal Dodson and Anna Gerb and is a decent listen with all three participants providing an in-depth insight into the creation of this film from the story to the actual production with plenty of non-stop details about the film providing plenty of additional insight into the film.
Deleted Scenes (7:41/HD): Here we have five deleted scenes which are nice but given the current 125 minute runtime of the film were removed for obvious pacing reasons.
Cure Violence (1:31/HD): This is an anti- violence campaign ad which probably fits the subject matter of the film, but offers little in the way of interesting detail. (There is, however, an interview with the founder as an extra too).
Featurettes: The Early Years, A Shared Foundation, and Mastering The Craft (12:43/HD): These are actually three separate items on the menu, but essentially one long conversation between Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac in which they discuss their childhoods and their first interests in cinema and acting, going to Juilliard together and working together.
Interview With J.C. Chandor and Gary Slutkin (3:08/HD): A brief conversation between the director of the film and Founder and Executive Director of CureViolence.
Review By: Dave Warner