|Viggo Mortensen is having a bad day in, A History of Violence|
From Joe's Shelf
A small town diner owner gets the attention that he's been avoiding for most of his life, when he easily dispatches two murderous travelers that attempt to rob him, which makes him a local celebrity. When I saw this David Cronenberg (The Fly 1986) film eleven years ago, I was instantly drawn into its mysterious plot and interesting characters. Since that time, the novelty has worn off, but the effect is still there. From the eerily realistic first scene where the two murderous travelers settle their motel bill, to the dialogue free dinner table finale, I was intrigued. The balance between horrific violence and the normalities of small town everyday life, teeter tots during the first half before going in its inevitable direction. Yet even though we know where this is headed, the journey takes a couple of minor detours that keeps you guessing. Complimented by some masterful camerawork from Peter Suschitzky (The Empire Strikes Back), and an emotional score from Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), the story creates a level of anxiety that shows the strain on the characters. One way or another, the truth will present itself.
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises) as Tom Stall the diner owner, first comes off as too nice and innocent to be taken seriously, until Ed Harris (The Rock) comes along with his goons and brings out the real Tom. There's a tension filled scene about half-way through where Harris tells Mortensen about how painful it is to see him trying to be this other guy, and I'd have to agree. He himself looks truly confused. Mortensen's eventual transformation into his true self, is reminiscent of Jekyll & Hyde, but with a slower process. All of this happens while a noticeable friction has grown between he and his family, especially with his wife and son (Maria Bello, Payback) (Ashton Holmes, The Pacific). They also get a little bit of their own scenes to show how Tom's past affects them. Bello plays the supportive wife very well, while Holmes seems a bit forced in his attempts to channel his father's secret rage. When it comes to the film's final act (only twenty minutes or so), the balance shifts to a dark comedy that is still surprising to see as it plays out. In that final act, William Hurt (Captain America: Civil War) shows up and takes control of his entire scene. His personality and reactions are priceless, and deserving of his Oscar nomination.
Highs- The long take intro, coffee pot justice, Harris' taunts, the bully gets put in his place, front yard hostage exchange, stairway lust, and "How do you f*ck that up?!" coming from Hurt.
Lows- Ninety-five minute run time rushes through the story too quickly at times, and the trick editing shots of an injured Tom running home stretches plausibility.
A History of Violence is a different kind of dramatic thriller that some will love, and others may find to be tedious. I still love it and am glad that Cronenberg and Mortensen have teamed up more because of it (Eastern Promises, A Dangerous Method). Check this one out and tell me what you think of it.
Rating- 7.5 out of 10
A History of Violence (2005)
R | 1h 36min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 30 September 2005 (USA)
A mild-mannered man becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: John Wagner (graphic novel), Vince Locke (graphic novel)
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris