A History of Violence

Whoa!……..When this movie was over I had a headache and I was speechless. Talk about a movie living up to its name! A History of Violence is R-A-W with a capital ‘R.’

Viggo Mortensen (A Perfect Murder, Hidalgo) and Maria Bello (The Cooler, Coyote Ugly) are a happily married couple living in America’s heartland. Their kids are cute and sweet as pie. Everyone knows everyone else by name in their sleepy town…a town that will be turned upside down in a random act of violence. Mortensen plays Tom Stall, the owner of a local diner bearing his name. One night, right before he is about to close up shop, two strangers enter. They request coffee…and then the horror begins. Events transpire that send our protagonist and anti-hero into a tailspin from which he and his adorable little family will never fully recover. I won’t reveal any events that you cannot deduce from the commercials. Suffice to say that Tom saves his life and the lives of his customers from these monstrous drifters. He dispatches the villains with a ruthless, instinctive efficiency that belies a dark past and begs the question, Who is this guy? Former assassin? Ex-government hitman? It appears that Tom is not exactly who he claims to be. Enter Ed Harris (Radio) as a painful reminder from Tom’s past who menaces his family and threatens to unravel the nice, neat little life that the Stalls have carved out for themselves. I think that’s enough of a plot revelation to reel you in…

This movie was absolutely fascinating. It is NOT for the faint of heart. The violence is mind-blowing…never have I witnessed such a spectacle. The graphic footage never comes across as gratuitous or unnecessary, which is a testament to the quality of this movie. This is arguably the most violent movie I’ve ever seen, mainly because the violence is not stylized at all. Unlike the ultra-violent Kill Bill, or even Sin City, something about the brutality in A History of Violence seems all too real. It left me dumbfounded. I think a girl sitting a few seats down from me in the theater was actually crying.

Director David Cronenberg has painted a chilling and unnerving portrait of violence and a revealing look at the complexities of human nature in the face of psychological upheaval. Mortensen and Bello are nothing short of superb, particularly Mortensen as a man desperately trying to maintain his family-man façade. His character descends into darkness as bits and pieces of his former self are revealed. His once loving wife now wonders about the stranger sleeping next to her. We watch their marriage go from a passionate, vibrantly sexual union to a living hell, characterized by lies and mistrust. There is one scene between Bello and Mortensen that is too raw for words…think Monster’s Ball (Berry and Thornton getting it on) or the 25th Hour when Monty asks Francis to “make him ugly” before he goes to jail. Get the idea now? Powerful shit, to say the least. If you can survive the following movies, you will be able to appreciate this one: American History X (cringe-provoking violence), Sleepers (uncomfortable themes involving children), Monster’s Ball (raw but consensual sex). This movie was a real mind-f*ck. I needed a cigarette afterwards

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