You can learn a lot about yourself while watching another man’s reaction to desperate times. In A Most Violent Year, Abel Morales, an immigrant entrepreneur and businessman, is pushed to the limit. His supply of Standard Oil trucks are being hijacked and criminal charges are being filed against him and his company by the district attorney. All this is happening while he is trying to secure the most profitable deal of his life; the purchase of a bay front oil terminal which would allow him to monopolize the sale and distribution of oil throughout New York City. It’s a fascinating story and a unique addition to the crime genre. The film is an intimate portrayal of a man fighting to maintain his ethics. He could retaliate with violence to his competitor’s strongarm tactics, but he does not. Abel Morales is a legitimate businessman (and reluctant gangster). There are some lines that he will not cross. He’s on the verge of facing financial ruin and failure, yet he maintains a high level of integrity and composure that is admirable and respectable.
I wish that I had Morales’ strength. I recently went through a hard year myself, full of disappointments and failures. When it was all done, I broke down and spent hours in the midst of a pity party for one. It was all very tragic and pathetic, and as time passed and I healed, I felt disappointed in myself. I should have been stronger in the face of confrontation. I should have been more like Abel Morales. His fortune, which he spent years building, is on the verge of total collapse, yet he maintains a strength. He does not yield to intimidation or conflict. He continues onward, towards the future. Towards the goal that he originally set out to accomplish. He understands that the obstacles are just minor conflicts and that they will pass like all things pass. He rolls with the punches, maintains his character and does not forget his identity. Meanwhile, his competitors are stealing from him. Mocking him from behind his back, yet he does not stoop to their level. He maintains his own independence. It’s a righteous and noble act, and maybe a little foolish, but admirable. He is a man, not a child or a boy, but a man with strength.
Julian is a driver that works for Morales. He has ambition, but not the brawn or the brains to achieve his personal goals. He packs a pistol while driving a Standard Oil truck in order to protect himself from hijackers, then ends up using it and fleeing from the police. He is a failure and disappointment in the eyes of Morales for jeopardizing the company. Julian has put a roadblock in front of his personal goals because of his actions. He is a fugitive now. He feels alone and without hope. He cannot forgive himself or face the consequences so he turns the gun on himself. He is weak and not a man.
There is something to be gained from watching A Most Violent Year. It’s a film that was misrepresented in the previews, advertised as the next best gangster film since Goodfellas. It’s certainly no Goodfellas, but it is a unique addition to the crime genre and should be watched from the perspective of a legitimate businessman wanting to grow and expand towards the future. Any man that owns a business knows that there are good years, and that there are bad years. Some businesses cannot walk away from the bad years, they collapse and fail. Some overcome the hardship and strife and become stronger. But what happens when a man and his business is presented with a most violent year and he does not want to retaliate with violence? Watch and you will learn.