Theatrical review. May be spoilers. I loved director/writer J. C. Chandor's earlier efforts ("All Is Lost" and "Margin Call") and what's not to like about Oscar Isaac ("Drive" and "Inside Llewyn Davis") and Jessica Chastain ("Interstellar" and "Zero Dark Thirty")? I couldn't wait to see this pseudo-mob movie. The marketing of this film isn't exactly honest in the respect of heightening the suggestion of mob enforcement and violence. And they make no secret that Chastain plays Anna Morales, a mobster's daughter who is married to Abel (Isaac), a Columbian-American. Together they have 2 kids and have just moved into their dream home.
Abel conducts his business on the straight and narrow however. He wants to run his heating oil business in a legitimate way. The film is set in New York in 1981, a year of high crime in the city. A group of half a dozen companies compete for the business, and Abel's trucks and drivers have been targeted for hijacking. While he contemplates how to react (the union boss wants to arm the drivers), Able is also in the middle of a transaction where he will purchase an unused riverfront plant. It will dramatically increase his competitive position. After putting down $30 thousand, he has only a few days to come up with the balance. His banker has assured him of the money. In spite of his unusual honesty, Able is also under investigation for supposed crimes by an ambitious D. A. (David Oyelowo, "Selma"). It is if everything is coming at him at once, including a surprise late in the film from his beloved wife. Then one of his drivers gets into a gun fight defending himself, putting his loan in jeopardy.
Albert Brooks plays Abel's consiglieri, Andrew Walsh, who runs interference where ever he can. I was a bit surprised that the film played straight with Abel's story and his faith in doing things honestly. In a perfect role for Isaac, he reminds of Al Pacino in Godfather II. Quiet, thoughtful and almost unassuming. While his methods differ from Michael Corleone, they both are smart, innovative and determined. Isaac and Chastain have great chemistry. The look of NYC is somehow propelled back in time, with a bit more grime and grit. Automobiles match the era, giving the film authenticity. In addition to Isaac and Chastain, watch for Elyes Gable in a supporting role as Julian, one of Able's drivers. He's terrific. This is the best film Oscar ignored in 2014 and I highly recommend it.