This film is on numerous top 10 2014 lists, including my close friend Warren’s. The trailer was intriguing and I had wanted to see it on the BS, but it left the theaters before I had the chance.
This film takes place in New York City in 1981, a year which broke the record for NYC homicides up to this point (nearly 2000). Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) is a self-made immigrant. He inherited a Heating Oil business from his father-in-law and has built it up considerably since then. He bends a few rules but, for the most part, is trying to build the business honestly. He has a chance to give his business a considerable competitive advantage by buying a port property. He has taken a substantial risk by making a large down-payment. He needs to come up with the rest of the money in 30 days or the deal is canceled and he loses his down-payment, which will bankrupt the business and lead him to financial ruin.
Abel’s business has formidable competitors who don’t play by the rules. They are threatened by Abel’s increasing market share and are retaliating by beating up his truck drivers and sometimes even stealing his trucks and oil. His wife Anna (Jessica Chastain) helps him run the business by doing the bookkeeping and giving him advice. She calls him a “pussy” because she doesn’t think he is doing enough to fight back and protect the family.
As if all this pressure wasn’t enough for him to pop a Xanax or two, Lawrence (District Attorney-David Oyelowo) informs Abel that his business is under investigation and he thinks Oscar has committed one or more felonies!
A few days before the port property deal is about to close, one of his drivers gets attacked, freaks out, and commits a crime. The driver runs away and is now wanted by the police. This situation results in his bank withdrawing its prior agreement to finance to port property, putting closure of the 30 day deal in great jeopardy. The second half of the movie involves Abel scrambling to complete the deal to prevent losing everything!
The film has a dark tone due to the subject matter and the cinematography (Bradford Young). The Writer/Director (J. C. Chandor) has an interesting plot but I didn’t think there was much chemistry between Isaac and Chastain and the first hour was way too slow. The movie gets better during the second half, and there is a great chase scene, but I didn’t care enough about Abel and Anna to be sufficiently emotionally involved with the outcome.
This is a solid rental but nothing more.