A History Of Violence (18)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

Review byMatthew Turner28/09/2005

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

Tightly-plotted, brilliantly directed, thought-provoking thriller with terrific performances from its three leads. This is one of the best films of the year.

The Background
It’s been a rough old decade for David Cronenberg fans. His last few films have been disappointing, to say the least, from the virtual reality shenanigans of eXistenZ to Ralph Fiennes’s oedipal mumblings in Spider. Thankfully, A History of Violence is a welcome return to form. It’s Cronenberg’s best film since Dead Ringers and, as such, easily one of the best films of the year.

The Story
Based on the graphic novel by Vince Locke and John Wagner, the film is set in rural Indiana. Viggo Mortensen plays Tom Stall, an unassuming family man whose idyllic existence is shattered when he foils an attempted robbery in his diner and kills two vicious thugs (Stephen McHattie and Greg Bryk). Tom becomes a local hero and attracts the attention of mysterious one-eyed mobster Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), who insists that Tom is a violent gangster named Joey Cusack, with debts to pay back in Philadelphia.

The Acting
The performances are nothing short of revelatory. Mortensen is outstanding as Tom, perfectly conveying a man who is powerless to stop his life being pulled out from under him. Maria Bello is equally good and there’s genuine chemistry between her and Mortensen. There’s also terrific support from Ed Harris and a bizarrely comic yet menacing turn from William Hurt as the Philadelphia crime boss.

The Good
Josh Olson’s script is extremely well written, maintaining a level of believability despite the action movie quality of the violence and forces us to question how we would act in the same situation. The violence itself is brilliantly directed, with action scenes that are fast and exciting, yet also confront the realistically gory consequences.

The Great
Cronenberg’s direction is astonishingly good, particularly during two contrasting sex scenes that demonstrate the irreversible power shift in the relationship between Tom and Edie. In addition, the film’s final scene plays out without dialogue, a bold move that pays off brilliantly.

The Conclusion
In short, A History of Violence is a challenging, thought-provoking, superbly acted and brilliantly written thriller that is, in a word, unmissable. If Cronenberg doesn’t at least get an Oscar nomination for Best Director, there is, officially, no justice. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

A History Of Violence (18)
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Content updated: 15/12/2018 03:12

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