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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 W. Scott Gordon

"We are riveted by Cronenberg's latest bloodfest; Therein lies the problem."
3 stars

Based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, David Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" refers both to the history of one man as well as society’s increasing desensitization to the constant onslaught of media images over the years. Lacking the stylized irony of films like "Pulp Fiction," "Violence" plays it straight while the audience looks on. Whether we are disgusted, thrilled, or both, it is impossible to turn away.

The story begins quietly enough, with two gruff men (one gaunt and bearded, the other nondescript) sitting outside of a dusty motel in Anywhere, USA. The bearded one goes in to finish checking out, annoying the other as he takes his time. But he finally does emerge about three minutes later, prompting his impatient friend to ask, “Hey, what took you so long?”
“I had a little trouble with the maid,” the other answers, “but I think it’s all taken care of now.” As the nondescript one goes back in to fill a water bottle, the source of his friend’s “trouble” is painted in sharp crimson relief: everyone in the lobby lies dead, their blood pooling unceremoniously on the fraying carpet. The man fills his water bottle while taking no notice of the carnage around him, clearly accustomed to the business of robbery and murder.
Cut to a sleepy Indiana town where diner owner Tom Stalls (Viggo Mortenson) and his attorney wife (Maria Bello) live a seemingly uneventful, idyllic existence with their two children, an adorable towheaded tyke (Heidi Hayes) and a slightly nerdy high school boy (Ashton Holmes). The audience knows that the chirpy, utterly forgettable music score and whispered nothings like, “I knew the first moment you fell in love with me…a could see it in your eyes” won’t be sustained for long; the moment of truth comes when our erstwhile robber-murderers ride into town and make the mistake of holding up Tom’s diner and try to take hostages. What follows is another display of senseless (and indeed, desensitizing) violence, during which Tom dispatches the killers with practiced ease and saves his terrified friends. His actions are made palatable only because it was clear he was doing the right thing; the townspeople think so too, and make him a hero. But Tom himself is psychologically scarred by the experience: why was he able to kill with such ease? And what does that say about the kind of man he is? At one point he confesses to his son, “I think I may be losing my mind”; a visit from a mysterious figure (Ed Harris), who claims to be part of Tom’s distant past leads everyone, including his wife and son, to begin doubting his sanity.
"Violence" gears up for a payoff, a twist, a revelation about the nature of identity, and ultimately fails. In order to care about Tom’s struggle to discover the truth about himself, we must first sympathize with the person we believe him to be in the first place. Despite Mortenson’s obvious commitment to the role, his unconvincing surroundings hinder this process. Why is it that so many people turn out to greet him as he leaves the hospital, yet he appears to have only one real friend in the entire neighborhood? Why does the town itself switch from a bustling hub of activity to a virtual ghost-town and back, seemingly at the whims of the plot? Tom’s family tapestry, the unraveling of which ought to cause a shock, provokes hardly a tremor. With the exception of Mortenson and Bello’s surprisingly graphic (re: violent) love scenes, during which it is clear that they really dig each other, it is obvious that no one in the family truly knows one another. Although the director may have intended this as a statement on how we may not even really understand those closest to us, the effect is more akin to a group of actors who have never met yet are expected, on cue, to act as a family unit.
If the film failed to address the disturbingly malleable nature of the self and others adequately, it’s take on the nature of violence and society’s increasing distance from it is more successful. As we watch Tom kill the invading robber-murderers, or observe his son finally confront the town bully, we are engaging in a kind of sick wish-fulfillment. The fact that those robbers lie twitching on the floor, one with his jaw blown off, matters less to us than the thrill we receive from knowing that Tom was justified in his actions; we are equally thrilled upon learning that the town bully’s fate. Although we may gasp momentarily at the variously maimed bodies that litter "Violence," the director counts on the fact that we have, through years and years of media conditioning, begun to learn how to divorce such horrible acts from the unimaginable and very real consequences they bring.

Thus, he is referring as much to our society’s image driven, gladiatorial past as he does to Tom’s shadowy one. While I cannot say that I enjoyed "Violence," it certainly gave me food for thought.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=12761&reviewer=406
originally posted: 11/14/05 11:15:19
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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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