Thursday, March 30, 2006


Viggo Mortensen A History of Violence Directed by David Cronenberg
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


Tom Stall is your everyday regular Joe. He has a loving wife, a son who’s in high school, a preteen daughter who’s as cute as a rag doll, and he owns a local greasy spoon restaurant in middle America.

But things are about to change for Tom ...

Two murderous men hellbent on making a swathe of destruction everyplace they go decide to visit Tom’s little restaurant. Things get ugly real fast. But Tom moves into action and kills both men, thus saving everyone in the place. He’s a hero. His face is plastered all over newspapers and on TV. Everyone loves him.

But then a dark car trundles into town and three men who look very "mafioso" come lumbering into Tom’s establishment. They say they know him, but not as Tom Stall; they know him as Joey, a man with a different and violent past from Philadelphia.

Tom denies knowing them or what they’re talking about. But Tom’s lovely life is about to unravel. Hero status in town puts too much pressure on him and he has to deal with a past he thought he’d left behind. To do so, however, he may have to reawaken a killer instinct he thought long dormant.

Can a man forever change his stripes? Can a man continue to be a loving father if his past catches up with him and turns day-to-day life into a possible bloodbath?

Director David Cronenberg (NAKED LUNCH, 1991) delivers his best film to date. Viggo Mortensen (THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy)pulls in a powerful performance as a conflicted man living a lie but wanting it to be true and willing to do anything to protect his family. Maria Bello (PAYBACK, 1999) plays Tom Stall’s beautiful wife and does so with an understated grace that makes the audience really feel what she’s going through (i.e., living with a husband she doesn’t even know).

Ed Harris (POLLACK, 2000) plays Carl Fogarty, a scummy little mafia man who’s scarred face match his disturbing past. He lives for conflict.

The big surprise, though, was William Hurt (DARK CITY, 1998) as Tom Stall’s real Philadelphia brother. He actually freaked me out when Viggo’s character returned to Philly for a bloody "family" reunion.

This is a really underrated film. Although not the best movie I’ve seen in the past year or so, it is definitely interesting and gripping. The ending alone will leave many speechless. The last three minutes of the film have no dialogue, simply showing a family forcibly coming to terms with what they’re father is/was, and what they realize he had to do for them.

Click here for A History of Violence movie trailer!

Oscar Nominated: Best Supporting Actor


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