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Overall Rating
4.02

Awesome45.05%
Worth A Look: 28.57%
Average: 16.48%
Pretty Bad: 3.3%
Total Crap: 6.59%

16 reviews, 86 user ratings


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History of Violence, A
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by Lybarger

"No comfort zone here…"
4 stars

If I were to show you an outline of David Cronenberg’s new movie "A History of Violence," you’d probably imagine that the lead should be played by Charles Bronson or The Rock. At times the film seems to be treading toward the direction of "Walking Tall" and "Death Wish." It seems like unlikely material for the director of “Crash” and “Spider.” But judging by the bizarre collective gasping and groaning I heard at the end of the movie, however, Cronenberg and screenwriter Josh Olson succeeded in forcing viewers to reexamine how we look at violence and its consequences.

A lot of movies have desensitized audiences to what it’s like to take a punch or even a bullet (“Sin City,” for all of its fun is an example), Cronenberg and Olson have managed to make staring at a open wound repellent and upsetting for all the right reasons. Yes, there is gore here, but Cronenberg lingers on the aftermath and makes it seems just a little too real.

The story starts out deceptively. We follow a pair of odd fellows who are emerging from a bland 50s era hotel. Gradually it turns out these guys have robbed the place and brutally murdered the family who ran it.

Cronenberg then cuts to a small Midwestern town that exudes blandness. It’s the home of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), an easygoing café owner who has proves to be more than a match when the thugs who robbed the hotel try to hold him up.

He takes a small wound in his foot, but the thugs, who’ve left a trail of blood behind them, don’t survive the encounter. Because he managed to take out two wanted criminals, Tom becomes an instant hero in the national media.

The thieves may not have been taking on a typical shop owner. A trio of fierce looking mobsters—led by a menacing one-eyed Carl Fogarty (a pitch-perfect Ed Harris)—think that Tom is really a fugitive mobster named Joey Cusack who committed some heinous crimes (including busting Fogarty’s eye) back in Philadelphia.

Whoever Tom really is, he’s got a mean side that makes him able to survive because he can take out anyone who threatens to harm him, even if he doesn’t want to. Mortensen effortlessly switches from decent family man to cold blooded killer with just the blink of an eye. At times the actor almost seems possessed as he switches personalities. It’s as scary to watch his face change as it is to see the aftermath of a fight.

The supporting cast manages to keep up with him nicely. Maria Bello has several great moments as Tom’s initially supportive wife Edie. As she learns more about him, her faith is tested. William Hurt has a brief but effective turn as a Tom’s sleazy brother.
Much of what make “A History of Violence” so intriguing is that
Olson and Cronenberg demolish the standard notions of good and evil. Much of what can make a standard action film enjoyable is that they offer the comforting thought that exterminating bad people makes for a healthier world.

In John Wagner and Vince Locke’s graphic novel by on which the film is based, Tom seems more put upon than inherently dangerous. It’s a little easier to identify with him as he reluctantly takes on his past and current enemies.

Cronenberg and Olson, however, make Tom a more enigmatic and scarier figure. His drive to hurt may be repressed, but it’s just as present in him as it is in the more demonstrative Fogarty. At the end of the day, Tom really can’t go to sleep at night knowing that he’s better than the criminals he’s had to face again.

In both the book and the film, resorting to force might be necessary (guys like Fogarty have trouble understanding the word “no”), but it only seems to escalate problems instead of solving them.

Cronenberg doesn’t have an answer to how we can deal with violence, but his latest movie leaves well-tied knots in your stomach that won’t go away any time soon.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12761&reviewer=382
originally posted: 10/03/05 16:01:12
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User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell solid film cast is great 4 stars
5/10/15 stanley welles a gripping, cogently written and admirably acted work 4 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Hitman becomes cook in diner. You want fries with that? 4 stars
12/05/08 P. Yew Someone in the theatre I was in farted and stunk up the whole place. 1 stars
11/26/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
6/11/08 PAUL SHORTT A FLAWED AND UNIMPRESSIVE MEDITATION OF VIOLENCE 1 stars
1/21/08 Wendell O. Maness John Gotti was a wimpy loser- wormfood now! Ha ha! 3 stars
10/29/07 mr. mike Better than expected. Ed Harris is amazing 4 stars
7/29/07 john anthony Loses its way in the last 1/3. Should have stayed in Indiana 3 stars
7/21/07 Harry Cronenberg is the worst movie maker in the world 1 stars
7/20/07 Jennifer What th fok was that! Sheer nonsense! Absolutely pointless! 1 stars
7/07/07 AnnieG Much too predictable; too little plot. 3 stars
5/22/07 R.W. Welch Doesn't quite ring true at times but shows some style. B- 4 stars
5/17/07 ES Enjoyable, depicts sex and violence on a satisfying scale 4 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold People rightly say that it's "multi-layered"; but damnit, aren't all films? 3 stars
1/26/07 kris It is a bit naive and overrated. But obviously tricked many, including pro film critics. 3 stars
12/17/06 Trey Thought provoking and truly dramatic. Great movie. 5 stars
12/15/06 T. McGregor This movie draws you in then implicates the audience in the gruesome violence. Brilliant. 5 stars
12/06/06 Adrian A masterpiece. Nails everything. 5 stars
9/01/06 MP Bartley Dark and troubling. Terriffic acting across the board. 4 stars
8/18/06 Seanboy A fantastic meditation on violence in our culture, superb performances 5 stars
8/14/06 Cosmic Conundrum Total Crap. Exhibits characteristics of a badly made Hindi Film. 1 stars
7/21/06 Frank Rountree Total crap says it all. Doesn't live up to the hype. 1 stars
7/19/06 Reklc Great acting, graphic violence- so what if the story is a bit bogus. 5 stars
7/17/06 mark incredible-leaves much to the viewer's interpretation and implication 5 stars
7/13/06 ad "The meaning" is way overblown. Shooting spree with no big surprises 2 stars
7/04/06 seldomscene do not read the reviews, it gives the plot away,watche it cold 5 stars
5/05/06 Indrid Cold A metaphor for America losing its innocence? That probably gives David too much credit. 3 stars
5/01/06 Agent Sands One of the most well-made films of 2005...or 2006. 5 stars
4/18/06 Jessica not bad, abit over rated, didnt like the ending , but ok for a night in with a pizza. 4 stars
4/10/06 Jung Texican Grossly overrated. "Experts" again assign profound meaning to an empty film - top 20 worst 1 stars
3/29/06 mike if a coffe shop gets robbed, don't be a hero or u lose ur secret identity! 3 stars
3/28/06 Y2mckay good acting, good action, but way WAY over-hyped 4 stars
3/21/06 Jon Makes you think... and awesome acting 5 stars
3/21/06 Peter The whole thing is as awkward and empty as the first sex scene. 2 stars
3/19/06 Monday Morning Nothing special about this flick. Very missable. 3 stars
3/17/06 matt overhyped, not as interesting as people say but still worthwhile. 4 stars
3/15/06 Rocky I really dug this flick, not a wasted moment in it and very thought provoking 4 stars
3/15/06 Shannon Robles cronenberg does it again! 5 stars
3/13/06 john bale Never overcomes its source material a comic, its too over the top to be taken seriously. 3 stars
3/11/06 jack different but doesn;t keep the interest up 4 stars
3/10/06 matthew smith a very impressive film, great performances 5 stars
3/10/06 Sumixam Not as good as they say but kills 1.5hrs ok 4 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands CRONENBERG'S GREATEST MOVIE YET. POSSIBLY THE BEST OF 2005. 5 stars
1/19/06 ASC Excellent 5 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint A frightening portrayal of a trapped man's inability to escape his predetermined fate 5 stars
12/05/05 Jeff Anderson David Cronenberg's strongest film to date & brilliant! Mortensen & Bello are OUTSTANDING!!! 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Cronenberg is a modern miracle. He's nothing short of genious. 5 stars
11/21/05 qemm the plot worth of a 70s kung-fu movie... movie about nothing 3 stars
11/09/05 Alice very very overrated, nothing new and even boring. 1 stars
11/07/05 K. Sear Reasonable but not as good as everyone is claiming. 4 stars
10/28/05 Aaron Smith Good film, fine performances by Bello and Mortensen. 5 stars
10/27/05 TOYAN DAVIS GOOD MOVIE TO ILLUSTRATE THE POWER OF LOVE 3 stars
10/27/05 deadwiz Pretty decent flick, pretty graphic too! 4 stars
10/26/05 Sean Worst movie Ive ever seen. I know NO ONE who liked this 1 stars
10/26/05 Nick_Voro Part boring, cliche, and captivating. In the end a very interesting film but very overrated 4 stars
10/22/05 Christine FIdance Very glad to see Cronenberg back on his game, excellent acting, great movie! 5 stars
10/19/05 Sarah The most trite, poorly executed and absolutely pointless film I've seen. 1 stars
10/19/05 B-dog Bad acting,depressing, fake 1 stars
10/19/05 jeff good acting, simple story, bad ending, loved it 5 stars
10/17/05 Marc Bauman Excellent, unsettling 5 stars
10/17/05 Cinemaniac On the surface, it might look like a thriller, but it's really a meditation on identity... 5 stars
10/15/05 ROY L. CAIN JR. The legacy of Charles Bronson lives on. 5 stars
10/13/05 Koitus Good movie; better than most of the other cr@p that is out there! 4 stars
10/13/05 spielberg Very violent movie, psychologic plot just too thin 2 stars
10/12/05 Elizabeth S Pretty brutal. Actually quite a simplistic story but told well. 4 stars
10/11/05 b compact, no wasted film, excellent 5 stars
10/11/05 Ole Man Bourbon Cronenberg's worst. Ridiculous story, Viggo is a total dullard. Why the hype? 2 stars
10/10/05 bill crappy, pretentious, unlikely. no one in the theater I was in liked it, one bit. 1 stars
10/10/05 Agent Sands Perfect. A masterpiece in all departments. Timeless, timeless, timeless. 5 stars
10/07/05 kanye excellent film - could have been helped by a better ending. 4 stars
10/07/05 Louise McChrystal a little too much violence, but still a very well played movie 4 stars
10/06/05 Steve Michaud Wow. Simply... wow. 5 stars
10/05/05 ASF Overrated, cartoonish, lacks depth. Director was not up to the material. 3 stars
10/04/05 Elizabeth S Good performances, powerful, brutal film 4 stars
10/04/05 isawthismovie good idea for a movie but very poor execution of the idea 2 stars
10/03/05 laura gonzalez one of the best movies of the year! 5 stars
10/03/05 Patti Hughes I love this film twice. It is wonderful 5 stars
10/02/05 viggo mortenson did you people work on this movie? i can go online or on oxygen to find near porn whenever. 2 stars
10/01/05 astrotart Primo acting with a great story with just enough sex, violence and drama.. 5 stars
10/01/05 Suzz well-acted but predictable reformed mobster film less the final scene 4 stars
10/01/05 Kristina Williams That second sex scene....WHOA. 5 stars
10/01/05 The Criddler Cronenberg = Filmmaking God 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Cronenberg's superb, transgressive meditation on violence's multiplicity of forms; graphic 5 stars
9/25/05 James Laczkowski Best Film of 2005 so far. Riveting, disturbing and suprisingly funny. Hurt rules 5 stars
9/13/05 Alex Brisbourne Possibly Cronenberg's best: great acting, good script, violence is a little much! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  23-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 14-Mar-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  09-Mar-2006


Directed by
  David Cronenberg

Written by
  Josh Olson

Cast
  Viggo Mortensen
  Maria Bello
  William Hurt
  Ed Harris
  Ashton Holmes
  Heidi Hayes



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