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A History Of Violence

Title: A History Of Violence

Director: David Cronenberg

Stars: Viggo Mortensen ; Maria Bello ; Ed Harris ; William Hurt

Reviewer: Matt Eccles

Rating (out of 10): 7


Like Sin City, A History Of Violence was part of a cluster of films released in 2005 adapted from a graphic novel. However, what made this film most notable was the welcome return to form for David Cronenberg, making his most commercial film in 20 years since The Fly.

Set in an obscure, sleepy Indiana town, it stars Viggo Mortensen who gives an impressively nuanced performance as Tom Stall, a mild-mannered café owner who foils an armed robbery and becomes a local hero, only for his past to come back to haunt him in the guise of Carl Fogerty, a sinister mobster played with effective menace by Ed Harris.

As Stall’s formerly idyllic life is turned inside out, so is his relationship with his wife, terrifically portrayed by Mario Bello. The bursts of graphic sex and violence play an intrinsic part to the plot, and are therefore the very opposite of gratuitous, which by itself must make A History Of Violence one of the most unusual high-profile releases of recent years. However, a disadvantage is that the necessarily slow pace that precedes these moments tends to sag the tension a little too much, and the film has to rely on the strong performances of the leads to carry it through. The same goes for the denouement, where, disappointingly, the film’s slow-burning intensity seems to lose its vigour. Those reservations aside, A History Of Violence is a fine achievement on many levels and confirms that Cronenberg can still produce films as successful as they are idiosyncratic.

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