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Worth A Look: 28.42%
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Pretty Crappy: 3.83%
Sucks: 6.56%

16 reviews, 87 user ratings

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History of Violence, A
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by Chris Wilson

"A very brief history."
3 stars

A History of Violence really should be a great film. As a treatise on violence, I can see what itís trying to do. Hopefully others will, too. But having an incredible idea and really doing something with it are two very different things.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) has a gorgeous wife (Maria Bello), a teenage son and a young daughter. He lives one of those idyllic small-town lives you typically see in movies. One night at the diner Tom owns, two men come in to rob the place and presumably murder everyone in it. Tom, in a quite un-idyllic manner, brutally and efficiently dispatches the two men before they can lay a hand on anyone. Tom has saved the day and becomes a nationwide hero. Fade to black.

Or at least thatís how your typical story would end. But thankfully A History of Violence isnít your typical story. This is just the beginning. Soon after gaining national attention for his courageous act, Tom and his family are visited by several sinister characters led by Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris). Fogarty claims to know Tom, though by a different name. The tension there is amplified by outbursts from Tomís son, who deals with Tomís violent actions (not to mention school bullies) in increasingly unhealthy ways.

The brilliance of this story is how it hints at the place of violence in all parts of life. Violence toward someone you love; violence toward someone you loathe. One scene even poses the controversial connection of sex and violence. The violence you see is not just graphic but gritty and realistic. Comparatively, most action films are cartoons. In A History of Violence, a man shot in the head not only dies but has a large piece missing. Some may not enjoy this, which really is the point. In order to take violence seriously, one has to see both the emotional and the physical effects of it. Director David Cronenberg (infamous for his twisted horror films) knows how to disgust. He also knows how to make the audience question what to enjoy and whether or not to glorify the violence.

Whatís ultimately disappointing is that film only hints at connections. It never really explores where these actions come from or what they lead to. This is especially disappointing in the subplot of the son. Heís directly involved in two brutal incidents, the question raised being whether or not violence is learned or innate. Not only is this simply abandoned, but we never see the psychological toll. The climax also leaves much to be desired. In a film about how complexly intertwined violence is in the world, this section of the film feels like an 80s action movie. With material this intelligent, the bad guys (or good guys for that matter) shouldnít be so simple. Thankfully thereís a much more emotionally complicated epilogue.

With all this said, A History of Violence is well worth looking into if youíre tired of dumb action thrillers. It most definitely has substance (efficiently packed into 96 minutes), but judged on what it tries to be and who it should be for, the movie simply has too little to offer to be praised the way it is. As far as a history of violence is concerned, this is the Cliff notes version.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12761&reviewer=400
originally posted: 10/01/05 17:13:16
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User Comments

4/15/20 Charles Tatum It’s like someone stole the entire second act of the film 2 stars
9/12/17 morris campbell solid film cast is great 4 stars
5/09/15 stanley welles a gripping, cogently written and admirably acted work 4 stars
1/24/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Hitman becomes cook in diner. You want fries with that? 4 stars
12/04/08 P. Yew Someone in the theatre I was in farted and stunk up the whole place. 1 stars
11/25/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
1/20/08 Wendell O. Maness John Gotti was a wimpy loser- wormfood now! Ha ha! 3 stars
10/28/07 mr. mike Better than expected. Ed Harris is amazing 4 stars
7/28/07 john anthony Loses its way in the last 1/3. Should have stayed in Indiana 3 stars
7/20/07 Harry Cronenberg is the worst movie maker in the world 1 stars
7/20/07 Jennifer What th fok was that! Sheer nonsense! Absolutely pointless! 1 stars
7/06/07 AnnieG Much too predictable; too little plot. 3 stars
5/22/07 R.W. Welch Doesn't quite ring true at times but shows some style. B- 4 stars
5/17/07 ES Enjoyable, depicts sex and violence on a satisfying scale 4 stars
3/27/07 fools♫gold People rightly say that it's "multi-layered"; but damnit, aren't all films? 3 stars
1/25/07 kris It is a bit naive and overrated. But obviously tricked many, including pro film critics. 3 stars
12/16/06 Trey Thought provoking and truly dramatic. Great movie. 5 stars
12/14/06 T. McGregor This movie draws you in then implicates the audience in the gruesome violence. Brilliant. 5 stars
12/05/06 Adrian A masterpiece. Nails everything. 5 stars
9/01/06 MP Bartley Dark and troubling. Terriffic acting across the board. 4 stars
8/17/06 Seanboy A fantastic meditation on violence in our culture, superb performances 5 stars
8/13/06 Cosmic Conundrum Total Crap. Exhibits characteristics of a badly made Hindi Film. 1 stars
7/20/06 Frank Rountree Total crap says it all. Doesn't live up to the hype. 1 stars
7/18/06 Reklc Great acting, graphic violence- so what if the story is a bit bogus. 5 stars
7/16/06 mark incredible-leaves much to the viewer's interpretation and implication 5 stars
7/12/06 ad "The meaning" is way overblown. Shooting spree with no big surprises 2 stars
7/03/06 seldomscene do not read the reviews, it gives the plot away,watche it cold 5 stars
5/04/06 Indrid Cold A metaphor for America losing its innocence? That probably gives David too much credit. 3 stars
4/30/06 Agent Sands One of the most well-made films of 2005...or 2006. 5 stars
4/17/06 Jessica not bad, abit over rated, didnt like the ending , but ok for a night in with a pizza. 4 stars
4/09/06 Jung Texican Grossly overrated. "Experts" again assign profound meaning to an empty film - top 20 worst 1 stars
3/28/06 mike if a coffe shop gets robbed, don't be a hero or u lose ur secret identity! 3 stars
3/27/06 Y2mckay good acting, good action, but way WAY over-hyped 4 stars
3/20/06 Jon Makes you think... and awesome acting 5 stars
3/20/06 Peter The whole thing is as awkward and empty as the first sex scene. 2 stars
3/18/06 Monday Morning Nothing special about this flick. Very missable. 3 stars
3/16/06 matt overhyped, not as interesting as people say but still worthwhile. 4 stars
3/14/06 Rocky I really dug this flick, not a wasted moment in it and very thought provoking 4 stars
3/14/06 Shannon Robles cronenberg does it again! 5 stars
3/13/06 john bale Never overcomes its source material a comic, its too over the top to be taken seriously. 3 stars
3/10/06 jack different but doesn;t keep the interest up 4 stars
3/10/06 matthew smith a very impressive film, great performances 5 stars
3/10/06 Sumixam Not as good as they say but kills 1.5hrs ok 4 stars
1/19/06 ASC Excellent 5 stars
12/17/05 ownerofdajoint A frightening portrayal of a trapped man's inability to escape his predetermined fate 5 stars
12/04/05 Jeff Anderson David Cronenberg's strongest film to date & brilliant! Mortensen & Bello are OUTSTANDING!!! 5 stars
11/21/05 Kurtis J. Beard Cronenberg is a modern miracle. He's nothing short of genious. 5 stars
11/20/05 qemm the plot worth of a 70s kung-fu movie... movie about nothing 3 stars
11/08/05 Alice very very overrated, nothing new and even boring. 1 stars
11/07/05 K. Sear Reasonable but not as good as everyone is claiming. 4 stars
10/27/05 Aaron Smith Good film, fine performances by Bello and Mortensen. 5 stars
10/26/05 deadwiz Pretty decent flick, pretty graphic too! 4 stars
10/25/05 Sean Worst movie Ive ever seen. I know NO ONE who liked this 1 stars
10/25/05 Nick_Voro Part boring, cliche, and captivating. In the end a very interesting film but very overrated 4 stars
10/21/05 Christine FIdance Very glad to see Cronenberg back on his game, excellent acting, great movie! 5 stars
10/19/05 Sarah The most trite, poorly executed and absolutely pointless film I've seen. 1 stars
10/19/05 B-dog Bad acting,depressing, fake 1 stars
10/18/05 jeff good acting, simple story, bad ending, loved it 5 stars
10/17/05 Marc Bauman Excellent, unsettling 5 stars
10/17/05 Cinemaniac On the surface, it might look like a thriller, but it's really a meditation on identity... 5 stars
10/14/05 ROY L. CAIN JR. The legacy of Charles Bronson lives on. 5 stars
10/12/05 Koitus Good movie; better than most of the other cr@p that is out there! 4 stars
10/12/05 spielberg Very violent movie, psychologic plot just too thin 2 stars
10/11/05 Elizabeth S Pretty brutal. Actually quite a simplistic story but told well. 4 stars
10/10/05 b compact, no wasted film, excellent 5 stars
10/10/05 Ole Man Bourbon Cronenberg's worst. Ridiculous story, Viggo is a total dullard. Why the hype? 2 stars
10/09/05 bill crappy, pretentious, unlikely. no one in the theater I was in liked it, one bit. 1 stars
10/09/05 Agent Sands Perfect. A masterpiece in all departments. Timeless, timeless, timeless. 5 stars
10/07/05 kanye excellent film - could have been helped by a better ending. 4 stars
10/06/05 Louise McChrystal a little too much violence, but still a very well played movie 4 stars
10/06/05 Steve Michaud Wow. Simply... wow. 5 stars
10/04/05 ASF Overrated, cartoonish, lacks depth. Director was not up to the material. 3 stars
10/03/05 Elizabeth S Good performances, powerful, brutal film 4 stars
10/03/05 isawthismovie good idea for a movie but very poor execution of the idea 2 stars
10/02/05 laura gonzalez one of the best movies of the year! 5 stars
10/02/05 Patti Hughes I love this film twice. It is wonderful 5 stars
10/01/05 viggo mortenson did you people work on this movie? i can go online or on oxygen to find near porn whenever. 2 stars
10/01/05 astrotart Primo acting with a great story with just enough sex, violence and drama.. 5 stars
9/30/05 Suzz well-acted but predictable reformed mobster film less the final scene 4 stars
9/30/05 Kristina Williams That second sex scene....WHOA. 5 stars
9/30/05 The Criddler Cronenberg = Filmmaking God 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Cronenberg's superb, transgressive meditation on violence's multiplicity of forms; graphic 5 stars
9/25/05 James Laczkowski Best Film of 2005 so far. Riveting, disturbing and suprisingly funny. Hurt rules 5 stars
9/12/05 Alex Brisbourne Possibly Cronenberg's best: great acting, good script, violence is a little much! 5 stars
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  23-Sep-2005 (R)
  DVD: 14-Mar-2006



Directed by
  David Cronenberg

Written by
  Josh Olson

  Viggo Mortensen
  Maria Bello
  William Hurt
  Ed Harris
  Ashton Holmes
  Heidi Hayes

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