You might think that this is just another thriller starring Viggo, Ed, William and Maria, but A History of Violence is a much more interesting flick. It’s based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke and directed by none other than David Cronenberg. His career has taken him in various directions, from full-on horror movies like Scanners and The Fly, to a more exploratory thrillers and fantasies like Crash and Naked Lunch. Now he has made a strange noir movie that feels like a standard issue thriller with a familiar setting and familiar story. However, all that is just the setting for the main event: the struggle within. Fascinated with perceptions of self and others, Cronenberg tells a story of a man with a history of violence, asking the question: can this be forgiven or forgotten? Or both?
Millbrook, Indiana is a sleepy little town, a definition of an American Dream. A place where you can settle down and start thinking about family and life in general. Tom Stall did exactly that when he came here. He opened the diner, got married and now he’s living a quiet life with his wife and two children. However, one day, two mean looking men will enter his diner and everything will change. After they started causing trouble, Tom kills them with a surprising amount of skill and is soon celebrated as a hero. This just draws attention to him and soon other men start asking questions who is this Tom Stall really?
I already mentioned an all-star cast led by magnificent Viggo, but I have to mention William Hurt again. He was so good here that one scene with almost ten minutes of screen time landed him an Oscar nomination for this film for Best Supporting Actor. ’nuff said. Under the lively Conenberg’s eye, everybody was working as a team to get to this atmosphere that he’s so famous for. And that happens here almost instantaneously. If you liked this vibe, you might wanna check out Eastern Promises, another Cronenberg “regular” movie, again starring Viggo Mortensen. The concept of that hidden power, that unseen certainty and skill is fascinating. This is because most people would not be acting this way if they found themselves in a violent situation. If you had experience, a lot of experience, with those situations, logically, you would be more calm and calculated than your average man. However, you have to carry this shit in you everyday and every minute, although everything is perfectly calm and fine. This examination of what it means to be violent and how people deal with it is what makes this movie tick. Interacting with his wife, daughter, neighbors, friends, enemies and people who want to beat the shit out of him, Tom is trying to remain the same Tom he has always been…
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes, Stephen McHattie
Fun Stuff: According to Bart Beatty, in his book “David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence”, Cronenberg did not know that this movie was based on a paradox Press/Vertigo Comics graphic novel until after he signed on to direct. Cronenberg has stated that he does not care for superhero comics/films, feeling they are all adolescent at their core, no matter how dark, edgy or intelligent critics and fans alike feel they are.