Given the title, this is not nearly as violent as one might expect (it is still violent, but predominantly in an atmospheric way rather than a graphic one). Even more surprisingly, there is a whopping amount of philosophy in this – really good thought provoking philosophy as well which slightly goes against the grain for mainstream crime dramas on the big-screen. The plot revolves around Oscar Isaac’s Abel Morales, who runs a fuel delivery company in NYC in the early eighties and whose rivals would dearly love to see him out of business. He and his family are threatened, his drivers are assaulted, his shipments are stolen, and the authorities are investigating him and his company for alleged dodgy practices, but he attempts to stoically remain true to his guiding principles – refusing to arm his employees, for example, looking two steps ahead at the potential consequences and teaching them that the men who attack them with weapons are nothing more than cowards for doing so.
Those around him, however, including Jessica Chastain as his wife and Albert Brooks as his business partner, are not so keen on philosophy when the going gets tough. Written and directed by J. C. Chandor (‘All is Lost’ 13, ‘Margin Call’ 11) it’s a strong performance from Chastain and a really great turn from Isaac, who utterly convinces and gains our sympathy bar a brief moment with his wife that almost doesn’t ring true, and this is a movie that may survive and even merit more than one viewing despite its slightly difficult and grim premise. One plot point involving a salesman working for Abel ultimately feels a little loose, but it’s a small niggle and one easy to forget about in an otherwise great film.