A History Of Violence

A History Of Violence

****

Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

Fate and destiny intertwine and connect in ways you cannot possibly imagine. What on earth can two mass murderers, travelling across country, have to do with an old Philadelphia crime syndicate grudge from almost 20 years ago? The answer is Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), an average family man living a quiet life in a peaceful country town. Had these two killers simply passed on through, instead of stopping at the cafe, then hell would not have broken loose. It's a million to one coincidence, but life is like that.

Tom responds with sudden, unexpected lethal force when the men attempt a hold up. And before you can say "wowzer," both are dead with their guts and skull fragments all over the floor. Tom is hailed as a local hero and his picture and story is soon all over the news.

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But gangsters watch the news, too. And hideously scarred Carl Fogarty (the very-cool-indeed Ed Harris) recognises the pictures on TV, not as Tom Stall, but as Joey Cusack, to whom he owes a serious ass-kicking. Carl and his goons promptly show up in town and quiz Tom over his new identity. Obviously, he thinks they are crazy.

All would have been okay if they'd just left, but their constant watching and hounding slowly brings back to life a side of Tom that died a long time ago, with the inevitable result that a major bloodbath ensues.

The violence is short, sharp, to the point and jaw-droppingly brutal - just the way the Gator would have it. This is not some PG-13 kiddie's movie. A film condemning violence only to not show it in its full, bloody, gory glory would be hypocritical.

Tom does not like what he is doing, but when his life and the lives of his family are threatened, the only way to respond is to put them bad guys down as quick as possible. There is no gun pornography, nor ballet dancing here.

The lesson of the movie is that a man can change. Violence will only lead to more violence and, ultimately, when you really think about it, doesn't solve anything. Yes, I know it's an old cliche, but there are not many movies out there that make an attempt to prove it true. David Cronenberg, in a change of pace from his usual body-horror and mind games movies, directs with perfect timing and encourages flawless performances from the entire cast.

It would be too much to call it his best work, but it's definitely one of the most important.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2005
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Violence begets violence in a study of retribution and small town defiance.
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Read more A History Of Violence reviews:

The Exile *****
Scott Macdonald *****
The Remote Viewer ****

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: Josh Olson, based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes, Peter MacNeill, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk, Kyle Schmid, Sumela Kay, Gerry Quigley

Year: 2005

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2012

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If you like this, try:

Eastern Promises
No Country For Old Men