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A History of Violence Review

Published October 18, 2005 in Movie Reviews
By Kasey Schiedeck | Images property of New Line Cinema
A History of Violence Poster A History of Violence
There's something about Viggo Mortensen that makes his stoic cowboy/family man persona in A History of Violence incredibly authentic. Although the truth about his identity is revealed early on, he continues to surprise us with every turn. The film is based on a graphic novel by Vince Locke and John Wagner and translates well into screen adaptation.

A History of Violence Review

Mortensen is Tom Stall, a friendly diner owner in small town Indiana where he lives with his lawyer wife Edie (Maria Bello) and their two children, teenager Jack and little Sarah. The real action begins when their seemingly tranquil domesticity is interrupted by two thugs who enter the diner late at night demanding coffee and threatening to kill. We have already seen their brutality in earlier scenes so it is no surprise when they pull out their guns. What is surprising is Tom's sudden ferocity as he derails both men in almost a single instant. The encounter makes Tom the town hero, much to his dismay. Before the commotion settles down, Tom is harassed by four professional hoodlums in crisp black suits who claim he is really a brutal criminal from Philadelphia named Joey. Tom solemnly denies the accusation but in an effort to save his family, the truth about his past is revealed and his proclivity towards violence is examined.

A History of Violence A History of Violence
Director David Cronenberg has himself proclaimed the film to be a study of the evolution of violence as a common thread in most cultures of the world. Violence is in fact the very epitome of war and the basis of the Darwinist theory of evolution and survival of those most fit to adapt, protect, and prosper. Conflict among humans is the basis of the film's examination of violence. You won't find polished, sexy martial arts fighting in this film; rather a jarring presentation of surreally realistic brutality-an oxymoron I know, but it is the best way to describe it.

For the bulk of A History of Violence, Cronenberg provocatively examines what drives humans to violence and why it is so darn easy to throw a punch in the wake of a dispute. But the beauty of the film is its relevance and honesty. Few films can capture the sentiment of a small town hero desperately but silently protecting his family from a past so guilt ridden he has spent more than two decades disguising it. Cronenberg is masterful at perpetually neglecting to maneuver our thought process. With a subject not as controversial as one might expect, he manages to navigate through a maelstrom of clichés about small town American life contrasted to the dark and dirty life "Joey" may have lived in Philly. There is humor in the movie, there are tears; the audience will laugh at crucial moments and possibly even cheer. It's the intention of the filmmaker to do so.

A History of Violence (R)
New Line Cinema
Directed by David Cronenberg
Written by Josh Olson
Based on the graphic novel by Vince Locke and John Wagner
Tom Stall: Viggo Mortensen
Edie Stall: Maria Bello
Richie Cusack: William Hurt
Carl Fogarty: Ed Harris
Jack Stall: Ashton Holmes
Sarah Stall: Heidi Hayes
Sheriff Sam Carney: Peter MacNeill
Leland Jones: Stephen McHattie
Billy Orser: Greg Bryk
Running time: 96 minutes

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Compiled By (Sources)
Kasey Schiedeck
Sources: Images property of New Line Cinema

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