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A History of Violence
Academy Award® Nominee
Tom Stall is living a happy and quiet life with his wife and their two children in a small Indiana town. Their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner,...  View more >

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris...  View more >

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Reviews Summary


Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

Oct 7, 2005
Ever since I read a brief synopsis of "A History of Violence" I have been looking forward to its release. The concept was interesting, Viggo Mortenson has done a good job in past roles (notably as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings movies), and Maria Bello is always watchable. Throw in Ed Harris for good measure, and you have a recipe for a good movie.

The movie is unconventional in many ways, and that's a good thing. The acting is very good and you are believably immersed in small-town America. However, these positive aspects are impeded by an uneven pacing that is either in the original story or the result of poor direction and/or editing.

Perhaps I have seen too many movies, but I felt that the first act was forcing me to accept all the things the director wanted me to know as fast as possible. We have several scenes which establish bad guys as being really bad guys with no redeeming values, Edie and Tom Stall as parents of a simple and loving family with a marriage that has certainly not suffered from mediocrity, and a teenage son with a bully problem. All this seems introduced so forcibly and so quickly (at least it feels like it was done quickly) that you feel that it's just a prelude to the second act. Since the diner scene is impossible to not know about if you've read or seen anything about this movie, you end up just waiting for that event to happen instead of having it jar you from the small-town reality into a new reality where all is not what everyone assumed it was.

Viggo Mortenson does a great job at playing the everyman Tom Stall. It is when he is forced into showing another side of personality, he is less effective. This is odd since he performed so well in The Lord of the Rings movies as a mysterious and powerful warrior. Maybe it was the goofy haircut they gave him...

A few words of warning for the parents out there: This movie is rated R for several reasons, and it is not appropriate for younger children. There are sex scenes and shots of nudity that are appropriate for the story, but are a little more graphic than some may expect.

Given that the movie has the word "violence" in its title, you should expect a fair share of violence and director David Cronenberg delivers quite a bit of that. You do see a closeup of a bad guy that has just been shot in the head, removing much of his face in the process, and there is an implied murder of a child. These are not over the top, but another reason that youngsters don't need to see this movie.

The movie's final scene is done well, although the people behind me didn't quite get the message that it was trying to convey. This is often the case with movies that don't spell everything out as plain as day, but if you're paying attention, its message won't escape you, and it's a fitting conclusion.

I recommend seeing "A History of Violence" at some point. Whether that is in the movie theater or at home is your choice, but it's definitely worth watching.
Oct 23, 2005
Adult themes. This film is both thought provoking and disturbing. Good acting all around. The screenplay was relatively weak considering the potential and power of the story.
Nov 5, 2005
YUK! If I wanted porn, I would have looked for it. Horrible story line, terrible acting. I wouldn't even recommend this one to rent. Go elsewhere for entertainment. If this is all Hollywood can come up with, it's time for something else.
Nov 14, 2005
Wearing his Darwinism on his sleeve, director David Cronenberg assails his audience with a movie which is surface “pulp thriller”, played hard against a psychological cyclorama.

Because of Cronenberg’s almost cult status, gut-level response is to bow down in “we’re not worthy” fashion, but in assessing this movie purely as entertainment - rather than multi-layered social commentary – it is probably given more credit than its due.

Loosely screen-storied by Josh Olson, from the graphic novel of the same name (by John Wagner and Vince Locke), *A History Of Violence* centers around leisurely Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), living the Life Idyllic in a town which elevates podunk to an art form. Running the town diner with the urgency of a napping camel, Tom is well-liked by his bumpkin employees and patrons, and long-married to wife Edie (steaming Maria Bello, so readily-sexed that every man in the audience immediately pegged her as a work of fiction - but we can dream, can’t we?).

Into Tom’s diner walks the criminal element from the disturbing opening sequence of the film, who attempt to divest Tom of his languidly-earned cash at gunpoint. With the suaveness of a panther, Tom efficiently dispatches the two felons, illustrating he is somewhat less somnolent than his aw-shucks drawl implies.

Like George Lucas ignoring his actors for fear of clutter on his green-screen, Cronenberg opts to ignore intrinsic realities which would clutter his movie’s thematic sweeps, to wit, The Media and The Law. The Media, which is instrumental in alerting Tom’s presence to characters from his unsavory past, suddenly vanishes altogether once it serves its purpose of conjuring those characters into the storyline; indeed, the absence of an intrusive, ubiquitous press – which, in our reality, would descend rapaciously on a multiple murder story before the last body’s chalk outline is drawn – leaves us stranded in an insular universe of the film-maker’s creation, and we shift uneasily in our seats for the lack of plausibility this absence fosters.

Out of Tom’s past swoops the sinister Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), all one-eyed and unnerving, and calling Tom “Joey from Philly” with the insistence of a jabbing finger to the chest, presaging Tom’s descent into his dark half.

We are ahead of the characters in identifying that Tom is a re-wrought persona of professional killer “Joey”, and the movie is more a study in Tom reconciling his adopted pacifism with his innate violent streak. Guess it’s like riding a bike; after sublimating it for almost two decades, it is his dormant Art of Killing which saves Tom’s life.

In his outré universe (*Naked Lunch*, *Crash*, *eXistenZ*), Cronenberg is king – some may contend dauphin, to David Lynch – of suspenseful, disturbing vignettes, left-field sex, and unapologetic brutality that allows him loving close-ups of decimated faces and mutilated nose cavities; of these aspects, there are plenty in *A History of Violence*, as well as Tom’s underlying themes of alienation and betrayal (with his wife), hero-worship and anger (from his son) and self-doubt and intrinsic dependence (on his bad self – not *Shaft* bad, but *actually* bad). Yet we cannot reconcile or forgive the haphazard conclusion tacked onto this otherwise engaging drama, starting its fall from grace at the point where the seemingly one-man Sheriff’s Department, Sam (Peter MacNeill), exhibits embarrassment in questioning Tom - which serves to highlight the absence of high-level judicial inquiries regarding Tom’s hurricane of violence; the Cronenberg “Ignoring Quotient” in overdrive.

By the time Tom faces his brother, Richie Cusack (a dangerously-smarmy William Hurt, doing his best Gary Oldman), the film degenerates into an Adam West *Batman* episode, in which the Villain plots a prolonged and gruesome death for him, with a lot of Villain-talk - if only the darned Hero would cooperate and stop that infernal escaping! The last scenes seem to be a visceral payoff for the bloodthirsty contingent, and leave us with unanswered – and maybe unanswerable – questions regarding the future of Tom’s estranged family dynamic.
Mar 24, 2008
"A History of Violence" is a powerful drama about one man's past coming back to haunt him. Viggo Mortensen is a peaceful family man until he foil a bank robbery. Then members of the mob come to town trying to convince him to return. I like this movie a lot. Not enough to give it a "See Now." but good enough for a "Good" rating. It's well acted and well written. Maria bello gave a very sexy performance. For a while, the film has almost reminded me of "Cape Fear." Both the 1962 and 1991 versions of the movie. this movie is worth seeing.

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