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A History of Violence (2005)

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ashton Holmes, more...
Director: David Cronenberg
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Studio: New Line Home Video
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Comic Books, Alternative Press
Running Time: 96 min.
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David Cronenberg directed this screen adaptation of a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke which explores how an act of heroism unexpectedly changes a man's life. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) lives a quiet life in a small Indiana town, running the local diner with his wife, Edie (Maria Bello), and raising their two children. But the quiet is shattered one day when a pair of criminals on the run from the police walk into his diner just before closing time. After they attack one of the customers and seem ready to kill several of the people inside, Tom jumps to the fore, grabbing a gun from one of the criminals and killing the invaders. Tom is immediately hailed as a hero by his employees and the community at large, but Tom seems less than comfortable with his new notoriety. One day, a man with severe facial scars, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), sits down at the counter and begins addressing Tom as Joey, and begins asking him questions about the old days in Philadelphia. While Tom seems puzzled, Carl's actions suggest that the quiet man pouring coffee at the diner may have a dark and violent past he isn't eager to share with others -- as well as some old scores that haven't been settled. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Read GreenCine's exclusive interview with David Cronenberg, who, just over 30 years since his first feature, Shivers, is still subverting expectations. In a wide-ranging conversation, David D'Arcy asks him about A History of Violence, his Canadian origins, the Crash controversy, going to Tangiers with William S. Burroughs, the Dead Ringers TV series... for starters. Full Article >>

GreenCine Member Reviews

chocolate souffle by Popnfresh August 28, 2007 - 5:52 PM PDT
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
I have to second ZenBones. There's nothing subtle about this film to my eyes, and it's paced so quickly that it doesn't even give you the chance to suspend disbelief. It's a whirlwind ride of revenge that feels like a cotton candy entree.

Nothing about it is substantive or though provoking. Could've been an interesting 120 minute movie, but at 96 minutes there's something missing.

Violent symetries by kinaidos April 7, 2006 - 1:50 PM PDT
1 out of 7 members found this review helpful
The structure of the film is impressive, probably owing to the original story. The brother-brother relationship is reflected in the father son relationship and in the various villain-stooge pairings in the film. This helps squarely frame the violence in the film in terms of the male-male relationships which give it significance. It also helps decenter the narrative, which by itself is far too conventional to sustain a film.
What makes the film so striking for me is the juxtaposition of this heavy handed graphic novel structuring with a realistic acting style and mostly realistic directing style. It creates a sense of the characters being caught up in something they aren't really in control of.
I also liked the films dark moral: that the only way to escape your past is to destroy it. I would have been happier though if the destruction would have been more proactive and less reactive. That would have been more fun and just a little darker. But then it would have been a Tarentino film.

Beware the Farces of Evil! by ZenBones March 28, 2006 - 3:06 PM PST
4 out of 7 members found this review helpful
**SPOILER WARNING!** This is certainly not the first movie to depict the cycle of violence and the trap it holds on people. The Godfather trilogy did it best - I could actually hear the ghost of Michael Corleone's seething wail, "just when I thought I was out - they pull me back in!" But this is a film that has no real cycle to speak of so it must depend on manipulating the audience instead. There's a little that we can see of Mortensen's gangster days but we must assume that overall, he's really a great guy because he's living in an all-American town (all white, of course) running an old-fashioned diner (how all-American can you get?), married to a supermodel - I mean lawyer, and has two of the nicest, cutest all-American kids that ever stepped out of a Disney commercial. He's just a great guy (I'm only mentioning it twice, which is not nearly as often as the movie makes this point). He beats up and kills bad guys right and left, but the way in which he does it isn't akin to the way gangsters or soldiers or even James Bond does it - this guy is f**king Superman!

I can accept the fact that bad action movies always have the hero able to take on several bad guys at once while each guy sort of waits his turn to get hit or shot. I can accept that the heroes always get shot in the shoulder and - okay this is stretching it - stabbed in the foot (you know Tom is a superhero because he runs several blocks just days after we see a knife crunch DEEP into his foot). I can accept that gangsters in bad action movies talk like mugs from bad 1940's pulp thrillers. But this isn't supposed to be a bad action movie. We're supposed to feel something for these characters, and we're supposed to get some sort of immersion into the wisdom of how violence and power grip many men. We're supposed to see how 'ordinary men' can lose their way and become immersed in the dark force. But Tom isn't ordinary and Joey - his alter ego - isn't a dark force (a farce, maybe). These are ubermen. They belong in a Hollywood movie, not in this film. Everything is 'uber' in this film, from the two intense sex scenes that underline 'nice guy sex / bad guy sex', to the school bully who looks like every bully cast in every 1970's high school romp. This film also embraces the tiresome habit that Hollywood always has of casting people well into their twenties to play high school kids, and superbabes to play the whimpering wives who will of course, even after being raped, always stand by their men. Obviously, this film is very popular, but for me it was just a major disappointment. I was really looking forward to seeing a riveting film that looks at violence from an angle that is never shown in regular Hollywood movies. But it didn't. It just reinforced all that is dumb, dishonest and predictable about violence in Hollywood movies. For an honest, gripping look at a gangsters who are grappling with their violent histories, check out John Cassavetes' "Killing of a Chinese Bookie" or even Abel Ferrara's "The Funeral".

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.08)
362 Votes
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Cannes Film Festival & More - 2005
Official Selection, Certain Regards... and more. Here is a bit more information on the films screened at the Cannes. I have attempted to list all the films that were considered for an award as well as any special screenings.
"If you like Croneberg you may also like... "
A random list of goodness with no particular theme -- really!

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