Able Morales, Oscar Isaac, owns an oil heating business in 1981, when crime, especially syndicate crime was rampant in New York City. He is attempting to buy a piece of property from some Hasidic Jews, thugs who are robbing his delivery trucks and possible felony charges for corruption and money laundering. Where does he turn? These is a man who prides himself on running a clean business, while those around him, are deep in bed with the teamsters and the mob.
The problem is that he has put down a deposit on the property he wants and has thirty days to come up with the rest. In the meantime his delivery men are being beaten up and robbed, and he has no idea who he can trust, and who is behind it. This is as much a mystery as it is about how politics within business can corrupt even those with the most honorable intentions.
Oscar Isaac gives a stellar performance as Abel, a man trying to do the right thing, yet caught between his wife Anna, Jessica Chastain, his legal counsel, Andrew Walsh, Albert Brooks, and the law, Lawrence, David Oyelowo. Abel is aware that his business his rife with gangsters, and crooks, yet he is persistent and insistent in doing the right thing. The question remains, can he retain his integrity, while at the same time gaining (the property) that he has set his eye on? And if he rises within the ranks, will he still remain as stalwart and noble as he is?
Jessica Chastain is outstanding as his wife, Anna. She not only his spouse, but she is the steel under belly that keeps their ship afloat. This is shone in a haunting scene in which they accidentally hit a deer. The deer is still alive, and suffering, so she tells him to put it out of it misery. Abel takes out a tire iron and is about to hit it, when a gunshot goes off. Anna is standing behind him with the gun. She did what had to be done, therefore saving him from having to do it.
Juxtaposed with this are many scenes with Abel jogging. There are many scenes in which the stark barrels of oil and rigging are set against banks of snow. This is nature, vs. cold machinery and corruption. Abel is comfortable out in the country, where he can breathe and think. Yet, he must run his business within the dark, dank areas of the city, which is blanketed in crisp clean snow. The contrast is significant, because it is a metaphor for the stress and strife going on within him and his life.
As a film portraying the mob in the eighties this ranks up there with “American Hustle”. The only thing it really lacks would be some bits of humor strewn within the story, to give the viewer a respite. As an allegory for how power and how men of good faith work to still stay upright amidst temptation, this is a good one. It is finely layered with many fine performances (even down to the most minor characters) beautifully filmed and well worth the time.