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A History of Violence

Released: 2005

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 1 hr 36 min

MPAA Rating: R

Director: David Cronenberg

Starring: Peter MacNeill, William Hurt, Maria Bello, Viggo Mortensen, Ashton Holmes, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk

Tom Stall is living a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife and their two children, but one night their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is told by director David Cronenberg with his usual dark sensibilities.

Review by: SteveRhodes

Added: 8 years ago

Blending Alfred Hitchcock's tale of questionable identity from SHADOW OF A DOUBT with a dash of Martin Scorsese's mobster humor from GOODFELLAS, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is told by director David Cronenberg with his usual dark sensibilities. From THE FLY to DEAD RINGERS to SPIDER, Cronenberg's movies, whether successful or not, are always really out there. In the Cronenberg canon, his latest is probably one of his most accessible and tamest, although as violent as ever. It is an intriguing, though-provoking and sometimes funny film that is one of the best movies of the fall certainly and perhaps of the year.

In a performance likely to be remembered at Oscar time, Viggo Mortensen (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) delivers a nuanced and chilling performance as Tom Stall, a reluctant hero of small town America. When we first meet Tom, he is a mild-mannered and soft-spoken man -- the type who would never harm the proverbial fly. Heck, Tom would probably trap the fly and release the insect into the wild, lest someone else hurt the poor little thing. Tom runs a small coffee shop in the tiny town of Millbrook, Indiana, where most of the locals stop in for a cup of Joe at some time during the week.

Maria Bello, as she did opposite William H. Macy in THE COOLER, proves that she is one of the sexiest middle-aged actresses around. In her best scene, Bello, as Tom's wife Edie, a local lawyer, provides a real gift for her husband one night. Arranging to have their two kids of out of the house for a change, she tells her husband, "We never got to be teenagers together. I'm gonna fix that." And with just the right outfit and attitude, she certainly does.

The idyllic life of the Stall family is shattered when Tom has to demonstrate some skills that no one knew he had. When a couple of out-of-town criminals try to rape someone in his restaurant, he snaps, plugging them both. Newscasters call him an, "American hero and a man of few words." He is happy to see the reporters leave but is upset when a scar-faced gangster from Philly (Ed Harris) shows up in a big black Chrysler and starts insisting that Tom is a guy named Joey with whom he has a score to settle.

>From there, the movie has many twists and turns, most of which are probably predictable, but all of which are shocking and surprising nonetheless. Of course, the main question is whether Tom is who he says he is. Edie feels like she is trapped in a nightmare but can't wake up, and Tom says he is not this mobster and monster named Joey. Of course, Tom is probably lying -- or is he?

A particularly good subplot involves Tom and Edie's son Jack (Ashton Holmes), who has his own anger issues to deal with, since a bully has been harassing him at school all year long. Yet another storyline features William Hurt playing against type as a bad guy who is rapidly losing control of his little empire.

Howard Shore's classic movie music sets a perfectly tranquil mood with just the slightest hint of danger in the air. This is coupled with Peter Suschitzky's handsome cinematography, which has a warm and intimate glow.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is a little gem, well worth seeking out.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE runs a fast 1:36. It is rated R for "strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.