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A History of Violence [Blu-ray]
A History of Violence
Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes
Director: David Cronenberg
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2009     1hr 36min

An average family is thrust into the spotlight after the father (Viggo Mortensen) commits a seemingly self-defense murder at his diner.


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Movie Details

Actors: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes
Director: David Cronenberg
Creators: John Wagner, Josh Olson, Vince Locke
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Crime, Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: New Line Home Video
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 02/10/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2009
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

Cronenberg at his masterful best
A. Sandoc | San Pablo, California United States | 12/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What can I say about David Cronenberg's latest work that hasn't already been said by film critics everywhere? My answer to that has to be: not much. A History of Violence will remind people that David Cronenberg is one of the more underappreciated film directors of the last 30 years and also one of its master craftsmen. Using a loose-adaptation (yet echoing some of the book's themes) of the John Wagner and Vince Locke graphic novel of the same name, Cronenberg creates a multi-layered film dissertation about the nature of violence. I will pause for a moment and say that the film also delivers as a taut, gripping, thriller that looks to ape the action-films of blockbusters past, but Cronenberg's skill as a director manages to keep the film above it's B-movie aspirations.

More well-known as the creator of eccentric and unusual fare with legions of fans and admirers in the horror community, David Cronenberg may have his most mainstream and accessible film to date since his remake of The Fly. In A History of Violence Cronenberg's existentialism continues to show as he probes through the dark and shadowy corners of human behavior and instinct. He posits a question of whether people as a whole --- no matter how saintly, well-balanced, and civilized --- secretly revels in the violence they see around them even as they denounce and feel uncomfortable around it. Some have seen this film as something of a historical commentary of the American history and how the nation itself has been shaped by its acceptance of violence and its many repercussions. I would say that those people are not far off the mark, but to compartmentalize Cronenberg's film to such a narrow focus is not fair to the film. Cronenberg deftly shows the brutality of violence and how its effect can be far-reaching and intimite at the same time.

As his past films dealt with the horror of the body politic (Shivers, Crash, The Brood, The Fly) and the nature of reality and existence (Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Spider, eXistenZ) Cronenberg continues these themes with this film. Despite the gore and viscera being small in comparison to his past works, History still show the carnage and horror that violent acts can perform on the frail human body. The film also points out that people as a whole deceive themselves of the true world around them in order to hold onto the ideal and the quaint. This is really put forward by the dynamic interaction between the character of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Edie (Maria Bello) from beginning to end. It is a testament to the excellent performances by both these actors that the audience truly believe and care for their characters on-screen. I'll have to say that this is Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello's best work to date and it would be criminal of the industry not to reward them in some way come awards season. The chemistry between these two performers is genuine, searing and very intimate. The very last can be seen in graphic detail in the two scenes of sex between the characters. One in the beginning is naughtily playful and shows how much in love the two characters still are and the second being more brutal and primal as the hidden layers of each character is slowly peeled away to show whats been hidden all along.

For an art-film masquerading as an action-thriller, A History of Violence is very deliberate in setting up each violent outburst. There's an underlying dread that permeates through each set-up. We know that something is about to happen, but its not rushed and gradually builds-up until something has to break. The violence is not your stereotypical action sequence that looks staged, but comes and goes quickly with the brutality and lethality of reality. In fact, the violence has the feel of being very intimate. Everything is up close and personal. Nothing is done from a distance and each strike and violent act painful to see, yet in all instances each scene also gets a rousing response from the audience. This is particularly evident in a scene concerning Tom Stall's teenage son dealing with a particular high school bully in brutal fashion. Everyone in this film is touched by violence in some way or another. From the very young to the very old. The final scene at the dinner table is both haunting and familiar. With all that has been going on through Tom's life and that of his family there's a sense of acceptance of the violent genie that was unleashed in the beginning and one of "life must go on" mentality.

I must say that A History of Violence has to be one of the best films I've seen since I've been watching them. For a film that is really just a revenge-thriller similar to Chan-wook Park's Oldboy, Cronenberg's latest has so many layers and depth to it that anyone who sees it are going to be tempted to talk about its themes and subtext lon after they've left the theater. Where Oldboy is like a hard kick in the gut then a devastation stomp on the neck, A History of Violence is more insidious, intimate and subversive --- like a sharp papercut just beneath the fingernail that lingers and tells one that its going to be there for awhile and there to stay. Some may end up not liking the film due to its deliberate nature or not having enough people dying in elaborately staged action sequences, but that will only show exactly what Cronenberg has been trying to show. That people nowadays have been so inured and desensitized by violence that we've come to accept it as entertainment and actually have come to yearn and need it like a drug-addict looking for their next hit. One of the best films of 2005, if not one of the best in the past decade."
The Killings
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Director David Cronenberg's movies glisten with a surface sheen that is always perfect. His mise en scene is often pathologically devoid of human connection or touch, though his films are always thought provoking and often scandalous in their grasp of the detritus of our lives. Is there any more beautiful movie than "Dead Ringers?" Any movie as scandalous, off-putting yet compelling as "Crash?" (the version with Rosanna Arquette and Holly Hunter).
In his terrific new film, "A History of Violence" Cronenberg has it both ways: his film features a straight forward plot that he handles with just a slight out-of-kilter quality that adds crunch and bite to the story of a man, Tom Stall (the quintessential strong silent, Gary Cooper-type, Viggo Mortensen) who, when placed in a situation that requires swift and brutal force...vomits out the internal fortitude necessary from deep inside his psyche and bowels to come up with the goods to deal with the situation. "AHOV" then, is about violence, brutality and the far reaching and ever telescoping tentacles that both exhibit as they wreak havoc on Tom, his wife Edie (the luminous Maria Bello) and his family and friends.
Cronenberg is dealing with some lofty and controversial ideas here: Kill someone and forever pay the price for that murder, whether or not the crime is justified or not. Commit violence and that violence colors everything that you are, everything that you do for the rest of your life. Once you take someone's life how much of you, the essence, the soul, the heart of you is gone also?
Viggo Mortensen's Tom Stall is strong of mind and morals, tender, vulnerable, upstanding but ultimately conflicted. Mortensen turns in a shaded performance that not only shows up Tom's soft side but also his malevolent one as well. Maria Bello, usually miss-used in her previous films is a revelation here as Edie: intelligent, accomplished, dedicated and hopelessly in love with Tom but aware that many times being in love doesn't mean you know everything about the object of that love.
"A History of Violence" is Cronenberg's "Vertigo": his version of obsession, violence and retribution told the Cronenbergian way: slanted toward the perverse...bordering on the maniacal. Don't blame Cronenberg because he is not Hitchcock, for he has learned his lessons from the master well. Blame him because he has come up with a film that is provocative and multi-layered though: one as transparent as a silk screen, just slightly out of reach...beckoning us in for a closer, scalpel-like investigation of what makes us tick, the buttons to punch to make us react and the mechanics necessary to allow us to exist.
"We do not solve problems by hitting people! "
Westley | Stuck in my head | 11/01/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Viggo Mortensen stars as Tom Stalls, a seemingly ideal husband and proprietor of a diner in rural Indiana. Oh yeah, his family is perfect too, aside from his son being a bit passive. His wife (Maria Bello) and he even enjoy an active sex life. Into this peace come a number of people intent on shattering his world. How will he react?

"A History of Violence" is a deceiving movie. It starts with a murder, then seems to veer toward being a story about a small-town family, and then...well all hell breaks loose. The script is based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke. I didn't know this until after I watched the movie, but it doesn't surprise me somehow. The film tackles, among things, the question of whether people can truly change. The twists and turns aren't predictable, but they also don't seem gimmicky; a balance most films cannot accomplish.

It's also a small film. As such, it invokes a feeling of intimacy - you quickly feel like you know these characters. When the inevitable violence erupts, it hits you viscerally in a way that most movie mayhem cannot. In many ways, the movie reminded me of "A Simple Plan"; it has that same kind of feelings - ordinary people doing things seemingly contrary to their nature. The cast is uniformly good, and Cronenberg's direction is terrific. His work here is so different than his prior films, really show-casing his versatility. "A History of Violence" is a terrific movie.
Not exactly a big fan of it
Cloud | Canada | 04/17/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"David Cronenberg always does films that tend to look at human nature in a different way: sexuality in Crash and changes in personality in the Fly. With this film, he gets into what makes people violent and how far it can go, particularly when it comes to saving family members and loved ones. It's a nice exploration but as a film it really left me cold, with highlights being 2 sex scenes and a couple shots of big violence.

Tom Stall is a family man with 2 kids leaving in a small town. He runs a local diner which one night attracts some criminal attention, which Tom ends up disposing of rather cleanly. It attracts some more attention, this time from local news and including a strange guy with an even stranger eye and tells him that Tom had a much different life than he does now.

While David Lynch likes to make really weird surrealist films, David Cronenberg likes to do films that take a look at transformation and ways people react to things. These 2 will always make interesting movies but I kind of lean towards Cronenberg ones, even though I don't really watch many of them. To me it's a misstep though as the film after it ended didn't really last with me on any level.

Casting is quite solid across the board, including William Hurt, who finally puts in some menace into his "woke up too early" voice. Viggo is always great although he does have this tendency to mumble sometimes and Maria Bello is always good. Ed Harris is effective as a villain, with a very uneasy feeling you get whenever he's around.

As for the violence in the film, it's not incredibly violent. There's a couple of shots that are cringe-inducing such as what happens when you punch someone in the nose a bit too much but it's actually not as violent as you would think. The 2 sex scenes are not that graphic but it's definately not candlelight and blowing curtains, you don't really see much during them but using your imagination they'll get graphic.

After the film was over I remember thinking "what was the point of this one?". Unlike the Fly which was entertaining or Crash which was incredibly erotic in the strangest sense, this doesn't have any kick to it. It's worth a rental but I wouldn't buy it unless it was a gift from someone."