Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) lives out the American dream in a picture-perfect small town. He runs the local diner, has a pretty wife and two children, both boy and girl, and has friendly relationships with everyone. The Stall’s lives are near perfect, almost in a sickly way, but this is soon to change. After having had this picture quickly built up at the start of the film it is then smashed apart after an incident at the diner results in Tom killing two men. He becomes a local and national hero, his face splashed across every news channel on television, which unfortunately leads to more unwanted attention than just the pesky journalists. Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), a scarred and scary-looking Philedelphia mobster (not the four-time World Superbike Champion), turns up claiming Tom is not who he says he is but is instead an associate from back in ‘Philly’, and it is from here that the story progresses.
The film’s plot involves a complete direction change and in the latter half of the film the viewers are watching a picture which bears almost no relation to the plot and people they were watching previously.
A History of Violence is a fascinating thriller and one which holds more surprises than you’d expect. It brings out decent and engaging performances from lead Mortensen and supporting cast members Harris, Maria Bello and Ashton Holmes, the latter two who play Stall’s wife Edie and son Jack respectively. Director David Cronenberg has a successful return to more genre-based film-making after his last outing, the more poetic Spider (2002), although in Cronenberg tradition the film is not too generic. The film’s plot involves a complete direction change and in the latter half of the film the viewers are watching a picture which bears almost no relation to the plot and people they were watching previously. This is more of a straight-forward and mainstream film to the less commercial fare which many Cronenberg fans will be familiar with but this was always obviously not a classic ‘auterist’ work. (The film being based, like many films of recent years, on a graphic novel, this one by John Wagner and Vince Locke) However, some trademark elements remain and A History of Violence is by no means shy of both sex and violence, some scenes are very graphic indeed in showing the action and results of the latter. ** (The following discussion in this paragraph will reveal plot elements, but only minor events from the very beginning)** Like with the latent violence of the past/within Tom, the film is like an accident waiting to happen, gruesome and graphic violence just hovering around the camera waiting to take centre stage, as they do at several points. The film is sold with the premise of dark secrets from the past returning to shatter the serenity of a normal family’s existence, but even for those who hadn’t got caught by these trailers or taglines, suspense is created within the film from the very first sequence- Before we have even seen the Stalls and their idyllic small town we are treated to the sight of two bloody corpses and a child being murdered.
it is a great film which investigates the roles we play and the people we are and become
A History of Violence takes a very interesting look at violence, it’s title able to be read in several ways, both in relation to the protagonist’s past and also that of human (or organic) existence, but it is by no means just about violence and horrific fight scenes. Instead it is a great film which investigates the roles we play and the people we are and become, the power of random events and secrets, and looks under the fabric of seemingly perfect existences, analysing what become very complex and strained relationships. It has a lot to offer in terms of drama, intrigue, surprises and witty comedy and is generally a film that is very easy to watch (ignoring the obvious visual gruesomeness of some scenes).