Jeffrey Chandor debuted with Margin Call (2011), set at the onset of the financial crisis of 2007, and All Is Lost (2013), which has only one actor and very little "dialogue".
A Most Violent Year (2014) is a realistic thriller with a moral undercurrent.
The protagonist, surrounded by enemies and cowards, is both betrayed and saved by his own wife.
The plot is a bit implausible (it is not clear why he can't just hire a private
detective to find out who is targeting his business, and it is not clear why
the poor truck driver becomes a criminal when he was just trying to defend himself).
It is snowing in
1981 New York.
Abel and his wife Anna deliver two briefcases full of money to a Jewish family
as deposit on the purchase of a river terminal.
Meanwhile one of Abel's truck drivers is attacked by thugs while delivering
heating oil, the family's business.
Abel has to pay the rest of the money to the Jews while someone is stealing
his merchandise. He and his wife visit the driver, Julian, at the hospital.
The police are not protecting the trucks at all. On the contrary, the
authorities are investigating Abel's business, convinced that he is committing
fraud and tax evasion.
At night Abel chases away an armed intruder who tried to enter his house.
He minimizes the incident with his wife, but the following day she finds
her daughter playing with the loaded gun that the intruder dropped while fleeing.
She and Abel's trusted attorney beg him to arm his drivers, but he refuses.
They have dinner with the banker who will fund the purchase. The banker pledges
On the way back home, in the middle of the night, they hit a deer.
The animal is still alive and Abel doesn't know how to finish it.
Anna pulls out a gun and shoots him: Abel gets angry that she decided to arm herself.
The police show up while the couple is celebrating the birthday of one of
their girls. Anna begs for a few minutes to end the party and during those
minutes Abel hides under the house all the compromising records.
Julian returns to work but he is clearly uncomfortable driving the truck.
Meanwhile a newly hired salesman is sent on his first mission.
The salesman is attacked, kidnapped into the back of a truck, and unceremoniously dumped into a ravine.
Julian is attacked again on the road, but this time he pulls out a gun and
starts shooting at the thugs, endangering all the people around them.
The thugs run away when the cops arrive, and Julian follows them, chased by
the cops. The thugs teach him how to lose the cops and he disappears.
This incident causes the banker to pull out of the deal.
Now Abel doesn't have the money to close the deal with the Jews.
He starts looking for Julian, and eventually finds him and talks him into
surrendering to the cops. At the last minute, though, Julian flees again.
Abel has to ask competitors for loans and has to mortgage the house that
he co-owns with his little brother. The police offer his attorney a compromise
whereby Abel will accept some felony charges.
Abel begs the Jews to give him three more days.
Then he gathers all his competitors and asks them to stop buying the stolen
oil from whoever is stealing it. They all swear to be innocent.
Abel happens to be nearby when another truck is hijacked. This time he
chases the truck until the truck overturns. One of the robbers die. Abel
chases the other one on foot until he catches him in the subway. He threatens
to kill him if he doesn't tell him who is behind the robberies. The thug
tells him that he doesn't work for anybody but also tells him that he sold
some of the oil to one of his competitors. Abel finds this competitor in
a barber shop and demands money from him if he wants to avoid a police
investigation. Abel still needs money to come up with the amount that he
needs and even pays a visit to a mobster. At home, however, his wife Anna
tells him that she has been stealing money from the company for years
and they have quite a bit of money in a bank account: they don't need the
bank, nor loans from competitors. Initially he is furious that she stole
from his business, but then he accepts to use the money. The following
day he closes the deal with the Jews and becomes the owner of the
river terminal. Now he is in a powerful position compared with his
competitors. Abel, Anna and their attorney stare at the skyline of the
city from their terminal. Julian shows up, armed. He is desperate. He shoots himself in front of them after begging Abel to take care of his family.
They call the police. Abel tells the chief that he refuses the compromise:
he is not a felon. The cop congratulates him on his purchase and clearly
wants better relations now that Abel is likely to become more influential
in the city.