A History of Violence is a film of two halves. The first half of the film is a thriller where the audience is given the question about whether this local hero Tom Stall is an old mobster taking a new identity and shunning his old life, or whether he just looks similar to said mobster. This part of the film is extremely tense and genuinely had me thinking of different outcomes which definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. Then the second half of the film follows the events following the answer to the question posed in the first half. The way his relationships with people change and his view on whether he can trust those whom he expected to trust him. This part of the film is more a drama with an extremely satisfying climax involving a final showdown with a mob boss.
Viggo Mortensen is absolutely superb as the mild mannered, family centric man who loves his friends and his family. Yet is also convincing when holding a gun to defend himself or others. The emotional range showed here is great, ranging from genuine happiness, to sorrow and to doubt, all are shown in every part of Mortensen’s body, voice and eyes, you genuinely feel the emotions this man is going through and it is fantastic.
Mario Bello is great as Tom’s wife Edie, the loving wife whom just wants her family to be safe and would do anything to protect them. Her confrontation with a mobster, played by Ed Harris, is especially moving and the performance was so good that you could see how defensive she got over her child and you felt her anger and fear and hate all in one blow. It really was a fantastic scene.
Ashton Holmes has his own little side story within the film, which is the typical high school, popular kid picking on not so popular kid which culminates in a fight. This story is a nice little parallel to the main story where Tom is being forced to be violent just as his son is, yet in totally different ways.
The rest of the cast do great jobs and just add to the over all realism of the film, there is not a poor performance in the entire film, which, unfortunately, is a rarity these days.
David Cronenberg does a fantastic job with this film. The exposition, the cinematography the camera angles, everything, it is just so great and just compliments the story brilliantly.
This is the first Cronenberg film i have seen and it will certainly not be the last, especially as Eastern Promises is on my watch list and has just moved up several places due to this film.
The Action is brutal and unashamedly so, yet never uncalled for. In fact, there are very few action scenes as to make those that are there feel special and with the stylised action and effects it is monumental and make those scenes stand out parts of the film.
A History of Violence is a slowly drawn film, yet there is not a single dull moment, this film would have been great without any violence, or very muted violence, but the fact that there are several ultra violent scenes add to both the realism of the film and my enjoyment of the film.
This film is by no means perfect though, it has some problems, mainly with the story, it just isn’t that interesting after the first half as after the revelation of who Joey Cusack is, the rest of the story, although still enjoyable is just ever slightly predictable, which in my opinion slightly ruins the whole film, as although there is still tension, it is not as present as in the first half of the film. But besides that it is definitely a must see film before you die. Just don’t expect non-stop action as, despite the title, it is more a character study than a relentless action film.