The Tomatometer rating – based on the published opinions of hundreds of film and television critics – is a trusted measurement of movie and TV programming quality for millions of moviegoers. It represents the percentage of professional critic reviews that are positive for a given film or television show.
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The Tomatometer is 60% or higher.
The Tomatometer is 59% or lower.
Movies and TV shows are Certified Fresh with a steady Tomatometer of 75% or higher after a set amount of reviews (80 for wide-release movies, 40 for limited-release movies, 20 for TV shows), including 5 reviews from Top Critics.
Percentage of users who rate a movie or TV show positively.
This peculiarly predictable picture has been calculated, or miscalculated, to set up certain expectations, fulfill them, and then do the same thing again, thereby giving us a chance to see what's coming and, at least in theory, be shocked.
Cronenberg isn't engaging in parody or irony. Nor is he nihilistically pandering to our worst impulses: the filmmaking is too measured and too intelligent. He implicitly respects us and our responses, even when those responses are silly or disturbing.
It's rare to find a filmmaker who can deliver such a message and keep us riveted every minute of screen time. But Cronenberg manages it, making A History of Violence one of his best, and most realistic, films ever.
The film keeps finding the violent underpinnings of everyday life wherever it looks, from the if-it-bleeds-it-leads news coverage that makes Mortensen a local hero, to the social structure of Holmes' high school.
As the title indicates, this is not a sedate art film. It contains moments of sharp, vicious mayhem and there is a body count. But the strength of the movie lies in its psychological complexity and depth.
As a history of Cronenberg, it's a good introductory lecture, detailing his careful composition, mastery of unease and complicated thematic interests. As a Cronenberg film though, it's figuratively bloodless, without any real body to it at all.
Cronenberg, like Count Basie on the piano or Hemingway on the page, has mastered the art of economy, paring down his work to its thematic essentials without any loss, and even some gain, in textured complexity.
With confidence and authority that should cement his leading-man status, Mortensen ably manipulates the tension of a man who's struggling to escape his past as a professional killer and to protect his family from the consequences of his legacy.
It's possible to imagine the film playing as an action crowd-pleaser to a mainstream genre audience that may not be a bit perturbed by (or even aware of) Cronenberg's stealthy unraveling of the threads of this American life.