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Overall Rating

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 Tom Ciorciari

"A lesson worth seeing"
5 stars

In David Cronenberg’s crisp new thriller, “A History Of Violence”, it is violence itself that is the main theme. Is it something inherent in all men, hidden deeper in some than others, but alive in each one of us nonetheless? Or is it perhaps something genetic, passed down from fathers to sons like the cleft in a chin or a hooked nose? In 97 compact minutes Cronenberg poses these questions, offering evidence on all sides, and then leaves it to us to work out.

In Millbrook, Indiana, a typically Rockwellian everytown USA, Tom Stall is the typical, Rockwellian everyman. Low-key, easygoing, Tom runs a small diner in town. Still passionately in love with his wife Edie (an electric Maria Bello) and father of two, Tom’s is a good life. Enter into this life two very bad men who hold up the diner and threaten its patrons (a threat we, the audience, know will be followed through upon). reacting swiftly, accurately and,a s the title suggest, violently, Tom puts down the two murderous robbers and is suddenly a reluctant celebrity, a turn of events which brings the insidious, scar-faced Fogarty (Ed Harris) to town, claiming to know Tom as Joey Cusack from Philadelphia, a violent hood. Is Tom in fact Joey? And, if so, how does that impact on his family? And can a man truly bury his past, his natural inclinations (and are they truly natural inclinations?), or is it only a matter of time before the Mr. Hyde side emerges? A lesser director – had he even bothered to raise such difficult questions – would find easy answers and a tidy resolution. Cronenberg, working from a fat free screenplay by Josh Olson, does neither.

Instead, the director of such offbeat films as Crash (the 1996 kink-o-rama about folks who get their rocks off from car crash inflicted wounds, not this year’s preachy, racism-is-bad critic’s darling) and Spider, though making his most accessible film since 1986’s The Fly, creates a study on the uneasy current of violence that thrums beneath the surface of our everyday lives (although I cannot say for a fact that Cronenberg’s target is specifically smalltown America, as some have suggested). He also takes pleasure in using the audience’s prior movie experience to make a point – when Harris’ creepy Fogarty asks, “Why don’t you ask him (Tom) why he’s so good at killing people?” it takes us a few minutes to catch up with the question, so used are we to seeing movie violence depicted with sharpshooter accuracy and perfect, split second timing that it’s stopped occurring to us that this is not how the real world works. Cronenberg is also not afraid (not that he, of all directors, would be) to show us the brutally graphic results of these acts, either. In A History... violence is not cool, it’s savage, it’s violent, and its victims, and those we see have certainly got it coming to them, most certainly suffer. An almost audacious point of view in these Grand Theft Auto San Andreas times. A History... brings us back full circle to Arthur Penn’s landmark 1967 this-is-what-it’s-really-like-when-people-get-shot classic Bonnie And Clyde, and shakes us from the stupor of easy acceptance that film makers like Quentin Tarantino have lulled us into.

Mortensen, returning to the more intimate type of films he’d made pre-Lord Of The Rings (i.e.A Walk On The Moon) imbues Tom with the sort of aw-shucks modesty of a Gary Cooper, then slowly peels away layer after layer until even he seems to be unsure of who he is – Tom, Joey or some hybrid. As his increasingly wary wife Maria Bello finally breaks out of the too-smart-for-these-roles mold (Coyote Ugly, Assault On Precinct 13) and gives a startlingly fleshed-out performance in what could easily have been just another hero’s wife role. Not a breath doe she waste on screen, her every movement conveying her transformation from innocent to victim to co-conspirator. Of equal note if Ashton Holmes, making his film debut as the Stall’s teenage son, Jack – a picked-upon high school semi-nerd whose quick tongue invites as much trouble as it diverts, Jack will have his own moment of explosive violence to contend with (“In this family we don’t solve our problems by hitting people”, “No, dad, we shoot them”), and newcomer Holmes handles these scenes with spot-on clarity – he is as frightened and thrilled by his own “coming out” as we are. Yet the film’s crowning performance is undoubtedly William Hurt’s laugh-out-loud crime boss Richie Cusack. Not since Alec Badlwin’s cameo in Glengarry Glen Ross has an actor stolen the show with as little screen time, and that Hurt’s Richie is not introduced until the final act leaves all the more lasting an impression. It’s a little early for predictions but one would seem hard pressed not to include Hurt on a short list of contenders for best Supporting Actor come Oscar time.

With “A History Of Violence” David Cronenberg has crafted a morbidly funny, surprisingly sexy and ultimately unsettling masterpiece, filled to the brim with phenomenal performances across the board. A concise, mesmerizing portrait of our naive fascination with blood and gore, and one man’s attempt to come to terms with a past that is no longer solely his, but that of his loved ones, “A History Of Violence” is a movie that resonates long after the lights have come up.

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originally posted: 10/11/05 03:01:36
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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
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
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 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
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  23-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 14-Mar-2006



Directed by
  David Cronenberg

Written by
  Josh Olson

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

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