A History of Violence
- David Cronenberg
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The peace of their lives is well established in front of our eyes before the bang: the thugs show up in Tom’s diner, set to cause trouble, and are stopped in a violent but precise move by Tom. He becomes an overnight hero, his face appears in national television and newspapers, reporters hunt him everywhere he goes, and townspeople cheer at his very sight. This doesn’t quite disrupt his life though, as he decides to move on and keep things simple – the way he’s always done.
But things turn wicked when a big city mobster, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), shows up at the diner claiming Tom is not really Tom but Joey Cusack, a killer from Philadelphia who caused him much trouble in the past, some of which can still be seen on his face. Fogarty won’t stop until he gets his revenge, but he moves quietly and hauntingly around Tom and his family, which makes him all the way scarier. Tom claims not to even have been in Philadelphia, but one can’t ignore Fogarty’s claims and insistence. The peaceful life of Mr. Stall has ended, or so it seems.
What a master Cronenberg is! His films have always either crossed the line of violence and nastiness, or threatened to, but even though A History of Violence is in essence a violent story, packed with shootouts and gruesomeness, the execution is so elegant there’s never a false note or an out-of-place image. Sex and violence are sprinkled throughout an otherwise quiet film, where few words and even fewer gestures say a lot. The film is an epic told in the most straightforward, simple way, which is a reason to admire screenwriter Josh Olson, who adapted the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.
I admired the film from the get-go, and went with every scene like a ballet dancer immersed in the music that makes his or her body flow like water. This is also due to the excellent casting of Mortensen in the lead, as he’s so completely credible in all the phases of his character, and he does go through a lot. Amazing support comes from everyone around, especially Bello, pitch-perfect as the supporting wife with an iron will and her own private views of life and ways of facing whatever comes. Ed Harris is chilling as the villain, and a welcome appearance by William Hurt makes matters even better, though that segment of the film seems to go a bit over the top.
Even though there don’t seem to be too many threads to this story, there are some subplots that matter a lot. My favorite involves a fight between Jack and a bully that picks on him, which brings up some controversy in the Stall family, for several reasons that turn out absolutely haunting after all is said and done.
Great work by everyone involved, including musician Howard Shore, editor Ronald Sanders, and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky. This is all so well crafted it’s a pleasure from start to finish. This is the best film I’ve seen this year, so far…
“Still crazy fucking Joey.”
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Other reviews of A History of Violence (2005): Morris