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David Cronenberg's 2005 thriller about a family man who may have a dark past as a killer.

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The review gives away the farm (but it is a little farm)

  • Mar 6, 2007
Pros: That the dvd didn't come with something sharp to harm myself with.

Cons: That the dvd didn't come with something sharp to harm myself with.

The Bottom Line: Not the worst movie ever, but it would be on an top ten for most dull.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie''s plot.

Never have I been so bored by a movie where so many people die.

Two words always come to mind when the name David Cronenberg is mentioned: crepuscular and gooey. A History of Violence was crepuscular enough, and the goo factor (usually by way of organic monstrosities in movies like Naked Lunch, Video Drome, eXinstenZ, and Scanners) is mostly just blood from fights and shootings. Yawn, someone wake me when something unpredictable happens.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a small town diner operator who stops what would be a deadly robbery of his diner. After this, the name and face of the otherwise unknown Tom Stall gets spread about. Then, as luck would have it, some gangsters from the overly paved east coast arrive in a small farm town in Indiana. Mistaken identity? Is Tom found out? Does it matter? For the sake of the notion of this film being a sucky way to spend 90 minutes: Tom is found out and no it doesn’t matter. If this movie were attached to a heart rate monitor it would have flatlined the whole way through. However on the way to pulling the plug (credits beneficently rolling) something on the order of 13 people are dead. There are shoot-em-up movies that are good where only half that many die. You could literally have shot one person per frame of film for this turkey and it would still have been overwhelmingly dull.

There were some half-hearted attempts to make the film work as a narrative. Tom is married to Edie (Maria Bello) and has two children—who cares what their names are, they are just tacked on so that Tom can be portrayed as a family man. There is some sort of tacked on subplot with the son that mimics the violence that his father does.

It seems that someone called Joey Cusack, former muscle for a Philadelphia mob syndicate, decided he had had enough of the whole killing for money and kicks thing. So he goes and reinvents himself. All is well and good until he kills two thieves. Then his old life comes back to haunt him. Big deal.

What is most striking in this is just how badly everyone acts. Apart from the town drunk and town idiot, there is not one stock character from rural town or gangster that this movie didn’t pull out of the dusty hopeless-chest. I kept waiting for something to happen, anything. This is a Cronenberg movie. C’mon, when is the house going to turn into some oozing bug and swallow up the whole family? There are tears in this movie, just standard tears, not some ooze that comes from the brain that has been overdosed with some sort of new chemical. Cronenberg doesn’t do tears and broken hearts, he does gross oozing things that shoot teeth instead of bullets and hearts broken when a hand reaches through the television and squashes it like a bug. And don’t get me started again on bugs.

The problem is that the story is so bad that no director could have saved it. It needed to be rewritten or just shelved. Yes, shelved. That would have been excellent. Lots of people tried to act in this film and there was a relatively decent amount of fake blood (though there were a few headshots with nasty bullets, there was no gray matter—kind of like the director getting soft, or hard, or something but how about just less gross). But it was all a wasted effort.

You see, I finally didn’t care. So the family gets self-righteous that Tom may have been someone else before they knew him as Tom? So what? I see people as a series of roles rather than as a fully finished person—this means that people are allowed to change if they desire. So they can all claim to be victims of a lie, but the person they know as Tom never gave them any indication that he was other than Tom. We have the ability to walk away from one life and start another—if you aren’t doing anything illegal, you just use your same name and social security number and just start a new life in a new city. I know at least one person who has done this.

The reason I mentioned that at all is to say that this is a movie where—even despite the rather large number of corpses—nothing really happens.

If you are contemplating watching this movie, set a timer and create a 90 minute story all by yourself—it will be better, free, and not a waste of time.


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More A History of Violence (2005 fi... reviews
review by . April 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Nature of violence is a dark and dangerous path down the road to death and sorrow....
For as long as humanity has existed we have always been violent we may have not been created that way  but somewhere down the line  we found out that violence  could save us or destroy us. It all depends on if we choose to use violence as a means of salvation or as a means of destruction in David Cronenberg's blunt yet very insightful film raises thought provoking and shocking questions about the true nature of violence and how it can affect some and change others. how sometimes …
Quick Tip by . October 09, 2010
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A movie in two halves. A world in two halves too. Nicely delineated. Cleverly done.
review by . December 23, 2008
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WARNING: This film contains strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality/nudity, explicit language, and brief drug use.       In the film A History of Violence, director David Cronenberg (Videodrome and Crash) examines America's fascination with violence. At the same time, both compelling and disturbing, the film shows the way that violence affects the residents of a small town in the Midwest. Utilizing his sense of irony, as well as his cinematic ability to create suspense, Cronenberg …
review by . April 29, 2009
This is one of those movies that seems to start off as a powerhouse and then peters off where the director was not sure where to take it and the movie seems to feel more like a long Sopranos episode than a feature length film.     Tom Stall runs a diner in a small Indiana town with his wife. Tom is the "nice" guy with the adoring wife that works with him and two children that everyone in the town "knows." One day there is trouble in the diner which causes Tom to get into a fight …
review by . November 08, 2008
A History Of Violence
I was anxious to watch 'A History Of Violence' because I had heard it was quite, well, violent. While there are two very exceptionally gross scenes, the violence unfortunately didn't fit it with the rest of the movie. For the most part, 'A History Of Violence' is a rather boring movie that takes a long time to get going.     Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) owns a diner in the quiet, rural town of Millbrook, IN, has a beautiful wife and two well-behaved children. When two thugs enter …
review by . December 11, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
This is one of those movies that seems to start off as a powerhouse and then peters off where the director was not sure where to take it and the movie seems to feel more like a long Sopranos episode than a feature length film.    Tom Stall runs a diner in a small Indiana town with his wife. Tom is the "nice" guy with the adoring wife that works with him and two children that everyone in the town "knows." One day there is trouble in the diner which causes Tom to get into a fight …
review by . July 21, 2006
Viggo Mortensen takes off his cowboy hat from "Hidalgo," his sword from "LOTR," and trades them in for a shotgun, a number of handguns, and a few swift punches to the throat to flesh out his role of Tom Stall in "A History Of Violence." The flick starts off with a bit of a surprise, then uses the next twenty or so minutes to build up the monotony, simplicity, and happiness of Stall's life. He has a perfect wife, Edie (Maria Bello), a good son (Ashton Holmes), and an innocent daughter (Heidi Hayes). …
review by . March 22, 2006
The idea that a movie with graphic depictions of murder could also be deep and incredibly interesting didn't cross my mind until I saw "A History of Violence." I understand now why David Cronenberg chose to direct it; his films are nothing if not bizarre and over the top, but they also have an underlying complexity that makes them fascinating to watch. Maybe that's because he chooses stories that focus primarily on the dark recesses of the human mind and the realities they create for the individual. …
review by . March 17, 2006
Too many times I've watched a movie expecting greatness and not getting that. I just knew A History Of Violence would be good but it only met some of my expectations. Although it will keep you entertained you might get mad at it lacking some realness. It may look real but trust me it doesn't look real enough and it goes on for the entire movie. For example when Tom saves his diner and the people in it he hits one of the robbers in the face with a pot of coffee and it's so obvious it's digitalized. …
review by . March 16, 2006
In "A History of Violence," director, David Cronenberg, creates a masterful study of the human psyche adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke. Performances by Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ashton Holmes, Ed Harris and a particularly enjoyable one by William Hurt intensify from one frame to the next, bringing to life the simple plot line that unfurls a deeper metaphor with as many tasty layers as an Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion.     Rather …
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Paul Savage ()
I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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About this movie


Starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt
Directed by David Cronenberg
Writer:  John Olson (screenplay)

Product Description
An average family is thrust into the spotlight after the father (Viggo Mortensen) commits a seemingly self-defense murder at his diner.

Canadian director David Cronenberg, whose impressive oeuvre includes such disparate works as THE DEAD ZONE, THE FLY, DEAD RINGERS, M. BUTTERFLY, and SPIDER, has made what might be the best film of his career with A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Loosely based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, the movie stars Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, a quiet, easygoing family man who runs a diner in a small Indiana town. But when two dangerous criminals come into the restaurant prepared to wreak havoc, Stall turns hero and shoots them both. After Stall's story is blasted all over the media, Philly mobster Carl Fogaty (an excellent Ed Harris) shows up, claiming that Tom is actually former hit man Joey Cusack--and they've got some important business to finish. While Stall insists that Fogaty is mistaken, his family--his wife, Edie (Maria Bello); teenage son, Jack (Ashton Holmes); and young daughter, Sarah (Heidi Hayes)--gets dragged into the danger that constantly threatens to explode. Cronenberg, whose films ...
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Director: David Cronenberg
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: September 23, 2005
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Josh Olson
DVD Release Date: March 14, 2006
Runtime: 1hr 36min
Studio: New Line Cinema
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