"A History of Violence"
Directed by David Cronenberg.
Written by Josh Olsen. Based on a graphic novel by John
Wagner and Vince Locke.
Starring Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello and Ed Harris.
Release Year: 2005
Review Date: 10/10/2005
I'm pretty sure that I have never seen a,
well, normal film by David Cronenberg. The man that has
given us such strange gifts as "Naked Lunch", "Crash", "Scanners"
and "The Fly", he normally works with strange actor leads (Jeff
Goldblum! Jeremy Irons! Christopher Walken! James
Spader!), directs films with strange plots and generally gives you
the feeling that he is as spooky as his movies.
I don't know if "A History of Violence" is
the kind of film that will mark Cronenberg's final focus in
filmmaking--he's in his 60s now--but if it is any indication, I
can't wait to see what he does next. Viggo Mortensen (our man
from the "Lord of the Rings" films and late of
"Hidalgo") plays Tom Stall, family man in a small ---tern town
and owner of a local downtown diner. One day, while minding
his own business, he encounters two small-time criminals that enter
his establishment; faced with the prospect of having one of his
waitresses killed by these criminals, Tom takes action and takes
down the two thugs.
This act of heroism leads the locals to
anoint Tom as an American hero; it also leads suspicious men to the
small town of ---- where he lives, including Fogarty (Ed Harris) and
two associates, men who ride around in what must be the only black
Chrysler 300C in town. Tom starts to face questions from the
local sheriff, the media, even his beautiful wife Edie (Maria Bello,
from "The Cooler")--Tom
was incredibly swift in dealing with the baddies at his diner, and
why is this Fogarty guy insisting that Tom's real name is Joey?
All of it is played out in a way that I
would have never expected from Cronenberg. The dialogue and
much of the acting seems to be deliberate; the first three minutes
of the film, featuring our first meeting with the two roving killers
that end up in Tom's diner, is a great set-up for us to see how we
will deal with all of the characters to be met throughout the movie.
The pacing is laid back, with moments of sincere terror and
violence; the constant mood shifting plays with your tension in ways
I haven't seen in a while, at once beautifully quiet and serene and
then literally one scene later splattered with blood.
You probably wouldn't have guessed it (hehehe),
but "A History of Violence" is quite crimson; I can't believe how
many people in my audience were disgusted by what they were seeing,
but then I thought "Jeez, did they see the trailer for this film?
Did they see it was directed by a guy that made a movie about people
that intentionally wreck their cars to get hot and bone in their
front seats? Did they not read the R-rating description,
'strong, brutal violence/gore?' C'mon!" All that being
said, certainly this will leave some people gasping and oh-my-God'ing,
so just know coming in that while it is a smart, entertaining
thriller, this does NOT make for good family fare nor does it make
for good first date material.
Mortensen is excellent as Tom; of course,
he's been great in everything for about the last ten years now.
Ditto for Harris, who shows up halfway through the film and adds
that je-ne-sais-quoi that Harris always adds, even in the rare
instances when he picks a bad film to work in. Bello really
seems to enjoy her naked self--between her work here and in "The
Cooler", she certainly has no problems with nude scenes--but even
with the clothes on I think she does great work as a dramatic
performer. Her future is limitless, unless she pulls a Nic
Cage and decides to start working in big piles of shit for the next
few years for the big paycheck (and
"Assault on Precinct 13"
was not a good start). Even the hammy performance that comes
late in the film by a big-name actor is great fun.
Beautifully shot, well-crafted and featuring
a great, quiet, perfect-fit ending sealed the deal for me, and
clocking in at 95 minutes doesn't stretch out the details past the
welcome mat. "A History of Violence" is as good an adult
thriller as there will be this year, so soak it in at your local
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard