Reviews & Counting
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A History of Violence(2005)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: David Cronenberg

Viggo Mortensen/Tom/Joey
Maria Bello/Edie
Ed Harris/Carl
William Hurt/Richie
7 10
Tom Stall (Mortensen) is a married average dude who spends most of his time raising his kids and running a Diner in a small and quiet midwestern town. But things go down the tubes when he offs a couple of goons who were trying to rob and rape his customers. Result; he becomes the town hero, appearing on TV and shite. What’s wrong with that? Well some high-end mobsters saw him on the tube and stroll on in town, certain that he’s in reality a sadistic hit man in hiding named “Joey”. That’s what’s wrong with that. Red splat answers ensue.

You should ask Tom; how come he's so good at killing people? — Carl

Love him or hate him David Cronenberg is without a doubt a compelling director, one who always intelligently explores the “human condition” in a unique fashion. Personally Cronenberg and I were engaged from Shivers and up, we then broke up with Dead Ringers (I still don’t get the appeal of that film), had a fling with Existenz and now we're back together due to his latest chiller A History of Violence. What am I rambling about? WHO CARES!

Based on the graphic novel (By John Wagner and Vince Locke) of the same name, A History of Violence is in my opinion a very subjective film, more so than the norm where what you’ll get out of it, has a lot tot with whom your are and where you come from in terms of the life you’ve lived thus far. Before I get into that; here’s the skinny on ride: In lament terms, this flick had me by the marbles throughout! From its brutal opening scene, to its “Is he or isn’t he an ex mob guy” game, to the poignant internal struggles the characters all had to deal with, to its smart reflection on "identity", to the visceral orgy of violence that was slapped my way…I WAS HAVING A BLAST! Tweaked by cerebral questions and thrilled with ugly kills; the film could do no wrong.

With that said, none of it would have had any impact if I didn’t give a knife stab about the characters and I’m happy to scream out of my jail cell; that I loved them all. Viggo Mortensen was the ideal choice to play this aloof man with more layers than one would think and Bello backed him up perfectly as the conflicted wife. One aspect that truly stimulated was that the film never “told” us much as to how the characters were feeling or what they were thinking. Their eyes, exchanged glances and body language said it all; it was up to us to work for it and pick it up. I could see how that approach could go over some people’s head but I personally loved it. Nothing like a good slice of ambiguity to start the day on the right “Life Sucks” foot.

Thematically, the flick was clearly addressing the “essence” that is violence from all angles. Violence to do harm, violence to do good, violence to defend oneself, violence to defend others and violence being passed on from generation to generation. Now I won’t lie to you; I saw what the film was talking about; registered it but was too busy being hooked by the plot, the characters and looking forward to more twisted brutality to really give a damn about that jive. Hey but for those who care... its there!

On the slippery side of the broken back bone, the flick did fail me severely a couple of times, namely in its dialogue which sometimes felt way off and far from believable. The “lovey dovey” banter Viggo and Bello shared sounded phony to me and went on to clash with the honest chemistry the actors were putting out. The same can be said about the lines between Viggo and his kids…way off! I actually cringed a few times. Lastly, William Hurt gave a particular performance for a peculiar character. He did fine I guess but I feel that the scene itself would have had more impact if the character was played straight as opposed to quirky. PS: Why couldn’t they find a little girl that “could” act? Bugh. Just my two cents on her; toss them or buy yourself a nickel with them.

Although flawed; A History of Violence was for me a breath of fresh dead air. Mature, character inclined, far from clear cut and shot in an restrained matter; I felt like I was watching a movie made for adults, been a while since I’ve seen and been challenged by one of those. DROP THE VIOLENCE!
It gets messy in this one with graphic bullet hits (nice head shots) a gruesome pummeling of one’s nose, some good fashioned neck snapping and more! The flick played it down and dirty and I loved it for it!
Viggo Mortensen (Tom) was the ideal choice to play this mysterious, complex and conflicted character. What a performance! Oscar should call his name for this one! Maria Bello’s (Edie) strong, sexy and vulnerable display had me yearning to propose to her while she’d be on all fours. WOW! Now that’s a woman! Ed Harris (Carl) rocked the house in his small yet pivotal role. What presence! William Hurt (Richie) gave a wacky show for his wacky part; he did fine but I just didn’t care for the role much. Ashton Holmes (Jack Stall) was credible; too bad he was tagged with some cruddy lines.
T & A
The ladies get Viggo’s chest and ass while we get Maria Bello’s tits and bush. The flick is fairly racy, where oral sex and the oh so wonderful position that is 69 were strongly suggested. Not for the puritans of the world.
David Cronenberg held back in terms of visual style in the name of not crowding the story. The images at hand were there to serve the film and its tale and it worked wonders for the impact of the picture, especially when brutality and sexuality stepped in. Visceral is the word I’m looking for, visceral is the word I just typed and visceral was this freaking film.
The score by veteran Howard Shore served the film perfectly in terms of tapping in and supporting its many moods.
A History of Violence wasn't perfect but man was it a full and satisfactory meal! It sported an awesome premise, stellar execution, engaging acting, back handing violence while acting as an emotionally gripping, thought provoking and endearingly ambiguous bitter pill. Yes the occasional lousy dialogue hurt the film in places and I could’ve gone without William Hurt’s “Cage au Folles” routine which weakened the scene in question; but on the whole this was one was a keeper.
The flick was shot in Ontario, Canada for a budget of about 30 Million bucks.

Maria Bello was born on April 18 1967 in Norristown, Pennsylvania