A Most Violent Year

Like a lot of gangster films, this one is really about the American Dream and the myth of the self-made man. Morales wants to grow his business in the "right" way, and finds that working hard and playing by the rules can only get you so far. Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.
Morales is an archetypal American hero, completely self-possessed, fighting fit, a breadwinner. His wife is smart, sexy and an excellent mother to his three girls. Under enormous pressure, they steer their family into the clear. The film sets up a contrast between this power couple and one of Morales's drivers which leads to a confrontation at the very end. The example Morales sets proves to be an impossible standard for his employee. The two men's different fates may be a way of undercutting and critiquing the ideal the film presents.
Perhaps significant that Morales's business concerns fuel, or oil. One of the most memorable shots in the film is Morales stepping over a dead body to plug a leak in a blood-splattered container of the precious fluid. An image that may nod to American compromises abroad (something the recent death of the Saudi king has highlighed).

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