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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 Good Idea Flawed by a Thunderously Bad Script

  • Mar 16, 2006
  • by
Rating:
+1
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 most pedestrian, hackneyed, adolescent scripts trying to pass as a big time movie - Josh Olson's adaptation of the grisly pulp novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is introduced to us as the head of a Hallmark happy-wappy family in Indiana - with his wife Edie (Maria Bello), son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes). Sure, Jack is harassed at school as a 'faggot' by a group of losers, but he takes it on the chin. Tom owns a diner where everybody just loves him - until one day when a couple of thugs disturb the placid boredom of the place and end up dead at Tom's too facile hands. Tom becomes a town hero, but the glow soon fades as big time crime enters in the guise of Fogarty (Ed Harris) plus thugs who enter the diner and confront Tom that he really is one Joey Cusack, a 'previous life' killer from Philadelphia. Tension mounts and ultimately Tom kills the intruders only to come to grips with some realities that are threatening and unpleasant and turn his family 180 degrees against him (in one of the most absurdly written reversals of family commitment ever written) in a fraction of a second. The rest is resolution of the Joey Cusack enigma and then the film just stops.

The actors try to make this mess work but the lines they are required to murmur are just too bad to digest. But if you like gore and battered bodies and spree killings and dark motives with secret agendas, then the film may please. But how it got attention in the first place is a bit difficult to believe. The accompanying featurettes on the DVD show all the secrets behind the gore and include scenes eventually deleted for good reason. Grady Harp, March 06

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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
posted in Movie Hype
A movie in two halves. A world in two halves too. Nicely delineated. Cleverly done.
review by . December 23, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Poster
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 . 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. …
About the reviewer
Grady Harp ()
Ranked #97
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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About this movie

Wiki

Starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt
Directed by David Cronenberg
Writer:  John Olson (screenplay)
2005

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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Details

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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