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A History of Violence (2005)

by on 2011/07/12

“You are the best man I’ve ever known. There is no luck involved. “

* * * * *

As I’ve said on this site before, David Cronenberg doesn’t need the props and trappings of traditional horror to scare people. Plain old workaday reality is plenty scary enough in Mr. Cronenberg’s hands.

A History of Violence is a film I adore. Adore. I adore it like I adored Eastern Promises – which is rather a lot. This collaboration with the brilliant Viggo Mortensen (LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring) breathes blood-infused life into A History of Violence graphic novel by John Wagner and Vincent Locke.

Filmed in Ontario, this movie tells the story of Tom Stall (Mortensen), diner owner and family man. Tom lives a small, happy life with his wife Edie played by the amazing, gorgeous Maria Bello. While you can’t really say this backwater couple is typical – they may be the hottest couple ever imagined – Tom and Edie live an idyllic small-town life with their two children.

There’s not a lot going on in the town of Millbrook, Indiana. And nothing much ever happens to Tom. That is until two very bad men played by Greg Bryk and Stephen McHattie come to town. Their crime ramage is cut short by Tom and his scalding hot coffee pot. The damage inflicted gives you a graphic reminder of Cronenberg’s gore-splattered roots.

Tom’s cool and expert handling of the toughs raises some questions and attracts some unwanted attention in the form of Irish mobster Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris). What happens next unravels the wholesome fabric of Tom Stall’s life.

This movie is crammed with standout performances. William Hurt’s (Dark City) performance as Philadelphia Irish mobster Richie Cusack is revelatory. Hurt’s crime boss is like none you’ve ever seen on celluloid before. Richie is terrifying, charming, murderous and glib all at once. The conflicted complexity of this character is insane.

Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of Tom Stall is exquisitely layered and complex. Every step you take you take with Tom raises more questions than it answers. Who is Tom Stall?

The mystery will send shivers down your spine. Which is just exactly what Cronenberg can do like no other director. And he can do it with just a small-town diner, a family man and a coffee pot.

That’s why where Cronenberg and Mortensen goes, I will follow.

* * * * *

96 minutes

Rated R for strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use

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