Statistically, 1981 was one of the most violent years in New York City’s history. The cheap hotels and rundown businesses housed much of the city’s illicit activities, while drug dealers and prostitutes worked openly from Park Slope to Times Square.
Writer/Director J.C. Chandor (Margin Call) shines the spotlight on this era in his film A Most Violent Year, and the lives of an immigrant, his wife, and their family. Abel (Oscar Isaac) and his mob-connected wife, Anna (Jessica Chastain), fight to keep their business alive despite pressure from the city’s District Attorney (David Oyelowo) and a mounting crime war against their workers.
According to Chandor, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) was originally cast as Abel, but dropped out due to creative differences. It was Chastain who suggested Isaac, with whom she with studied at Julliard.
Regarding her character, Chastain said that she found both humor and tragedy, “I loved the idea of this woman who wants to push up her man, her man is her king… but at the same time, as much as she’s pushing him up she’s also emasculating him, and there’s this dichotomy in her.”
Albert Brooks (Drive), Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle), Elyes Gabel (World War Z), Catalina Sandini Moreno (Fast Food Nation), and Ashley Williams (Something Borrowed) help round out the cast for A Most Violent Year, which premiered this month at the American Film Institute Festival to enthusiastic reviews. Produced by Participant Media and distributed by A24 Films, the film opens in theaters December 31, 2014.