Review: A History of Violence

May 2, 2006 at 2:49 AM (Movies)

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) runs a diner in Millbrook, Indiana.  He lives a peaceful life with his wife Edie (Maria Bello), son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes).  One day, two men enter his diner and try to cause trouble.  When the men pull out weapons and threaten the people in the diner, Tom retaliates with deadly force and the two men end up dead.  Tom becomes a local hero.

Just as the Stall family is trying to get things back to normal, a group of mobsters show up in town.  Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) meets Tom and Edie in the diner.  Carl hints at what appears to be Tom’s secret past — he calls Tom by the name Joey Cusack, and asks Edie to consider how her husband was so good at killing people.  Has he got Tom mixed up with someone else, or does Tom really have a secret past he’s not talking about?

This movie is based on the graphic novel of the same name (which I haven’t read) by John Wagner (writer) and Vince Locke (artist), adapted for the screen by Josh Olson and directed by David Cronenberg.  It’s a very well made drama, with some excellent acting.  The movie has a very controlled pace, and therefore, the scenes of violence (which are pretty brutal in themselves) have greater impact.  The characterisations are done very well.

I was reminded of Mystic River after seeing this.  Let me draw up a few comparisons — that film had the lives of totally ordinary characters being disrupted after a horrible incident (murder), and then showed us, the audience how the characters’ pasts affect them.  It’s somewhat similar here as well, though at the end I felt it didn’t succeed as well as Mystic River did.

I really don’t know why I didn’t like A History of Violence as much as I expected to.  I have a feeling it’s because the story and the eventual resolution didn’t have as much meat as they were made out to.  Still, the movie held attention throughout, and I liked the ending.

Rating: 7/10

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