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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 Abhishek Bandekar

"Nothing Educational About It!"
3 stars

'A History Of Violence' is more than what it seems…or at least it’d like to be. Coming at a time when the general perception of America as an international bully is being written on wet cement, the movie purports to ask and enquire a troublesome facet of humanity- one that it isn’t proud of yet exhibits it ever so often. Sadly, the movie treads this interesting path in a very hackneyed way.

Mankind, as history will inform you, has been anything but kind. And despite all our steps towards a civilized global neighbourhood, violence establishes its hegemony in various forms. One’s begged to wonder- is violence and the need to be destructive a part of our evolution…a gene that we carry in our cells? Tom Stall(Viggo Mortensen, commendable) is a family man, married with two kids, running a diner in Millbrook, Indiana. The family, suburb and its characters belong to the world of Frank Capra. That they feature in a David Cronenberg(The Fly, Dead Ringers, eXistenZ) film is both unsettling and foreboding unexpectedness. The assumption is vindicated when two cold-blooded goons, whom we meet in an extended opening sequence that appears to have nothing to do with the movie but everything with its following tone, attempt to plunder Tom’s diner; and Tom reacts instinctively and defends himself, his staff and his diner with precise action moves, otherwise incapable of a Frank Capra character! Tom’s suddenly in the limelight, and his newfound fame brings into this quaint town a fearsome mob-boss Carl Fogarty(Ed Harris). Fogarty believes that Tom Stall is Joey Cusack rechristened; Joey Cusack- a hardcore criminal from Philly with a bloody violent streak. Fogarty, intent on settling a past grudge that’s resulted in the loss of Fogarty’s left eye, pursues Tom who rejects and evades until even his wife Edie(Maria Bello, luminous) starts suspecting him. But when Fogarty drags Stall’s family into the equation, Tom lets his garb down and allows the violent Joey to take over.

Cronenberg, as is typical of his style, shoots his action in the most gruesome manner possible. Here however, Cronenberg is more interested in the aftermath of the violence and doesn’t linger on the action but hangs around uncomfortably on the moments affected by it. Upon realizing his dad’s superhero-like triumph over the city-goons, Tom’s son Jack(Ashton Holmes, ideal), much inclined to avoid physical confrontation, beats up his college bully to a bloody pulp. Edie too, hurt by her husband’s deliberate hiding of his criminal past finds herself drawn and repulsed at the same time to Tom’s vicious alter-ego Joey. In an intense sexual scene, Tom and Edie indulge in a violent act of sexual intercourse, leaving one unsure whether a married couple has had rough passionate sex or two individuals have released their repressed emotions in a violent fit of sex! The power virtually shifts from Tom to Edie in this brilliant scene, by the end of which Edie has humiliated Tom by sleeping with Joey!

Beneath all, the screenplay(Josh Olson), based on the graphic novel(a sophisticated term for comic book) by John Wagner and Vince Locke, tries to understand the connection that the human race shares with violence. Is Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest merely a subtler scientific exposition of a street fight? Olson would like to dissect the argument but fails to scratch the surface of it, let alone further. Understanding the cycle of violence and pain is something that Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River(2003) achieved successfully.

Tom Stall’s kids are the staple Hollywood cardboard cut-outs, especially the daughter(Heidi Hayes) who is irritatingly sweet and banal as well- mouthing the typical “scared of monsters, momma I want shoes” dialogues! The script is predictable to the boot, save Ed Harris’s face-off with Tom in front of the Stall house. And just when things couldn’t get more humdrum, a new character is brought in to inject some activity. William Hurt’s introduction as Joey’s elder brother Richie Cusack, a criminal lord of Philadelphia, adds little to the script than allowing Hurt an opportunity to revel in a showy role. Hurt has fun, but is his performance Oscar-worthy? Ed Harris’s silent menacing act is more deserving.

As the movie progresses one cannot help but feel like watching a Bollywood movie, albeit one with better standards of filmmaking. And it resembles one Bollywood movie in particular- 'Hum'(1991), directed by the late Mukul Anand, starring Amitabh Bachchan as a perfect family man whose violent past collides with his reformed sober present. 'Hum' never attempted at being more than a commercial entertainer but 'A History Of Violence' definitely wants to make a macro statement, one which it fails at. Give me 'Hum' any day. You may as well throw tomatoes at me for saying that.

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originally posted: 03/21/06 02:27:06
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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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