A History of Violence (2005)

history of violence poster 2005 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Solid thriller, good cast

Sometimes gets a bit too melodramatic

Movie Info

Movie Name: A History of Violence

Studio: New Line Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  May 16, 2005 (Cannes)/September 23, 2005 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

history of violence viggo mortensen diner shoot out

Bang…you’re dead!

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a family man living in a small Indiana town.  When he is crossed by two ruthless murderers, he reluctantly finds himself a hero in the media.  Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) believes he has seen Tom before and that Tom isn’t his real name.  Now, Tom is out to prove that he isn’t the man that Fogarty thinks he is and discovers his wife Edie (Maria Bello), their son Jack (Ashton Holmes), and his daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes) could all be in danger if Fogarty and his men don’t believe him.

Directed by David Cronenberg, A History of Violence is a crime action thriller.  Following Spider by Cronenberg in 2002, the movie is based on the 1997 graphic novel A History of Violence by John Wagner and Vince Locke and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.  The film was well received upon its release and nominated for Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (William Hurt).

I like Cronenberg a lot, though I prefer his early, schlocky, low-budget outings to his bigger more awarded movies.  A History of Violence really felt like a big turning point for Cronenberg in the themes of his movies and much of the focus.  It is a strong entry in Cronenberg’s filmography, but I think it lacks some of his touches.

history of violence viggo mortensen maria bello

Um…you got the wrong guy?

I have no problem with the movie and think the film is very good, but it doesn’t feel much like a Cronenberg movie.  Technology and science always seems to be a bigger role in his films and this film is largely built around mental fortitude, fate, and history as the title implies.  Tom is being accused of being a cold-hearted mobster who can kill and maim on a whim…he’s almost like a low-key John Wick (who can get injured).  He thinks he can change his stripes though and the movie potentially shows that he is who he is regardless how he tries to live his life.

Viggo Mortensen is great in that he gets the ho-hum lifestyle that Tom is trying to live, but it also feels like he has the suppressed rage of Joey Cusack.  Scenes like the last scene reveal that toothpaste can’t be put back in the tube and Tom’s life as he believed it to be is over (even if it is “over”).  Maria Bello gives a great performance of a wife who is forced to quickly realize that she doesn’t know the man she’s married to, and Ed Harris is effectively creepy as the man baiting Tom.  William Hurt is a scene-stealer in his short role (only about eight minutes) though I wish Mortensen and Bello had received some Oscar love.

history of violence ed harris

EYE see you…get it?

The movie is put together solidly.  It feels like a thinking man’s action film with plenty of intense scenes, but also intense drama that is often lacking in movies of this type.  The movie’s style and look also serves as a nice contrast to the horrors of the murders that occur.

A History of Violence was a different film than you might have expected from if Cronenberg hadn’t slowly been evolving himself over the years.  I like the movie and it is one of those rare movies that could have been longer and even more developed despite being well tied together.  I would also be interested in the characters being revisited someday to see how something like this does to a person as the cameras stop rolling…we could hope (but I don’t see that happening).  Cronenberg followed A History of Violence with Eastern Promises in 2007.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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