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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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A Past That's Best Forgotten

  • Dec 23, 2008
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 focuses on the characters, their motivations, their actions, and their regrets. He forces viewers to ask themselves what the consequences of violence are and whether or not killing can ever be justified?
Is killing ever justified?

Tom Stall and his family seem like your typical church-going, honest American family, but all of that changes on one fateful night when two psychotic criminals threaten the patrons of Tom's diner and Tom shoots them both, in self-defense, and kills them. Suddenly Tom finds himself a quasi-celebrity and the dynamic of his family shifts. His wife Edie, his son Jack, and his daughter Sarah become aware that Tom is more than what they thought. Their lives are intruded upon when a group of hitmen from Philadelphia claim that Tom is really a killer named Joey Cusack. Lead by a man named Carl Fogarty, the hitmen target Tom's family and Tom begins to show a paranoid and aggressive dark side that scares his loved ones. After a final confrontation with Fogarty and his men, Tom and his wife's marriage is fractured and their lives are forever altered. Is Tom really Joey, a killer for the mob? And if so, can he find redemption or is he always going to be haunted by this history of violence?

Facing calm enemies...
The film is certainly Cronenberg's most commercial endeavor and this is in part because of the brilliant cast featuring Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, Maria Bello as Edie Stall, Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty, and William Hurt as Richie Cusack.

Protecting your family...
When New Line Cinema released A History of Violence, they advertised it as an action/thriller, which isn't entirely accurate. While the film contains action and is sure to thrill, it's really more of a character study showing the dualism of one man's identity and his attempts to forget his past. It's also a stark reminder of what desperation can drive us to do.
Tom or Joey?
Poster Poster DVD Offering a ride... Healthy sex life... An act of violence... Self-defense? A face for bullies... Calm enemies... A Past That's Best Forgotten A moment of panic... Guarding the house... Tom and Edie When home ceases to be home... Unhealthy sex... Regret and concern... Richie...

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April 26, 2010
Great review, one of your 2008 originals!
April 26, 2010
Thanks. This one's from back when I was reviewing for Amazon. Did you see this film? It's not really like most comic books since it's so realistic, which is kind of cool. If you haven't seen it, watch it as a double feature some time with "The Road to Perdition", another film based on a very realistic and gritty graphic novel...
July 09, 2009
This is among my favorite films done by Cronenberg...Of course "The Fly" is number 1!
May 16, 2009
I do like this one a lot as I am a fan of Cronenberg & Mortensen but this wasn't one of my all-time favs. Not a bad flick though. I do agree with the four star rating. Yeah, definiately check out Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer. That's one pretty effed up film but damned good.
July 09, 2009
It gets extra brownie points from me for casting Maria Bello. LOL
July 09, 2009
I really liked this one but Cronenberg has always been a fav. Did you ever check out Rabid with Marilyn Chmbers or did you like Eastern Promises? Mario Bello is awesome!!!
February 18, 2009
Truth be told, I've not yet seen Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, which is pretty bad because I'm a major horror buff. I don't rent movies all that often and when I do I usually rent foreign films and big-league dramas. I assume that you'll be doing horror reviews for Halloween this year, if so you should do one for Henry and I'll try to too. I'm also thinking I might do a series of reviews for more modern horror films. No one seems to appreciate the classics but me.
February 18, 2009
Your secret is safe with me. My vote for scariest will always go to Michael Rooker, he was far more believeable (and thus scarier) in HENRY than Hopkins was in SOTL, but most people just don't think so. And of course the great majority of non-horror fans haven't even seen HENRY.
February 17, 2009
For some reason I never appreciated The Silence of the Lambs. I guess part of it was that the film was overhyped and another I thought Jodie Foster was unconvincing as Clarise. But don't tell anyone I said that I didn't like the film or they'll crucify me!
February 16, 2009
I know what you mean by feeling an audience's reaction, Count. Oddly that's one of the reason I don't like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. I saw it in a theater full of people who ordinarily don't go to horror films, and when some grisly shot of a mutilated body would be posted on the wall behind characters you could feel them straining to see it. They made ME feel uncomfortable! Odd, huh?
February 01, 2009
One of the things that always struck me about this film was how it seemed that Tom and Edie almost seemed to gravitate toward more and more extreme behavior after the first violent incident in the diner. I've always thought of this film as about how it's innately difficult for us to resist the primitive rush of violence after we start.
January 26, 2009
I still haven't seen Eastern Promises. It didn't show at our local theatre, so I'll have to rent it sometime. Is it true that Viggo Mortensen does a fight scene while completely naked? If so, I'm glad I didn't see it on the big screen. I always feel weird being in a theatre full of people during scenes of graphic sex/nudity, not so much because it bothers me but because of the strange, almost electrical tension that grows in the air as some audience members become uncomfortable. I remember when I saw Babel and the young Japanese girl flashes her crotch at one of her peers, the entire audience fell silent and the atmosphere became suffocating.
July 09, 2009
When you are about to kill someone, there is supposed to be an unspoken rule to let them dress before attacking....
as for that scene in Babel, that was nothing compared to Japanese pink cinema...
January 26, 2009
Did you happen to read any of the other reviews here on this film? The one immediately preceeding yours was an eye openner. Talk about detached. Great review Count. I'm one of the people who preferred this to EASTERN PROMISES.
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
posted in Movie Hype
A movie in two halves. A world in two halves too. Nicely delineated. Cleverly done.
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 . March 06, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
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.      …
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
David Cronenberg has a style with his films that is unmistakable: he is unafraid to address the darker aspects that lie within us all. That he pushes this idea over the limits of viewable film is reflected in some of his popular films such as 'Dead Ringers', 'The Fly', 'Spider', 'eXistenZ', 'Naked Lunch' etc. Yet despite his apparent love of gore he drives home a point that should be considered. Most of the time he works with a good script. For A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE he is hampered by one of the …
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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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