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Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac talk "A Most Violent Year"

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac play married small business owners trying to protect their family and their company in "A Most Violent Year."

Set in New York City in 1981, the film's stars say it has the look and feel of a gangster movie but it's a lot more than that.

"It's just not the cliché you expect it to be," Isaac said. "It's actually a reaction to that kind of thing."

Isaac -- who dropped his surname Hernandez when he became an actor -- says his character defies stereotypes.

"You don't usually see a character of Latin descent portrayed this way. He is not going to be the gangster, he is not going to use violence; he is going to succeed by taking the smart, long view."

Co-star Jessica Chastain says she lobbied hard for Isaac to get the part.

"I was feeling very impassioned and I wrote this email about how much I believed in Oscar," Chastain said. "He is Genius."

Isaac is also starring in next year's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", and as the villain in "X-Men: Apocalypse". Chastain most recently starred in "Interstellar" alongside Matthew McConaughey.

The actors go way back; they studied together at Julliard.

"A Most Violent Year" opens in limited release on Wednesday, Dec. 31.

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