A History of Violence Reviews
The action/violence sequences are powerful and have some great Cronenberg makeup effects in them. It was very well done, and pulled me into each one of those scenes. The stunt work was great, and I never felt like I missed anything because it was filmed well.
There was one aspect that I really hated, and that was the use of Greg Bryk as one of the killers in the opening scene. It threw me off so much because he kind of looked like a young Viggo Mortensen so I thought I was watching a scene of Viggo's past. It didn't make sense until the killers walked into the diner.
There's a very deliberate style to A History of Violence. In many ways it reminded me of the movie Drive (and I mean that in a good way.) It never becomes overly stylized, the main character almost never goes big with his performance but remains understated, and then amongst the quiet and calm the film is accentuated by startling violence.
I felt the movie was lacking something in the plot department, because once you get past the midway point it almost seems to run on autopilot. I was looking for a little something more, but the movie didn't quite deliver that. However there was enough there, and I felt connected to the characters so much that I keep thinking about A History of Violence days later.
Who is Joey Cusack? You don't find out until deep into the movie, but you find out very quickly who Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson) is. Tom is a family man running a diner named after his own surname. He's friendly, quiet, and loved by his wife and two children. Everything is going great in Tom's life until some pretty shady characters show up at his diner accusing him of being a former gangster by the name of Joey Cusack. These men are refusing to leave town and will do whatever is necessary for Tom to come clean and return with them back to Philadelphia.
The dialogue is slow but meaningful. It purposefully helps put your mind in the state of sleepy Millbrook, Indiana. The words are intense and powerful, especially between Tom and his wife Edie (Maria Bello). It appears that Tom and Edie haven't had many problems in the time they were married and they both seem unsure of how to handle this new threat that's now attacking their marriage. Being a part of the audience, you are watching a beautiful disaster unfold. Even during the peaceful times in the film, there's a quiet sense of something floating just underneath the surface. You can't quite put your finger on it, but it's there.
Purposeful. Word of the day. That's what makes this film so powerful and memorable. Every single scene, every single word that's uttered, it all has a purpose.
In the words of Salt 'N' Pepa, "Let's talk about sex." While it doesn't lead me to ever deducting points from a movie, I think a lot of sex scenes in film are unnecessary. For the most part, they never seem to go with the flow of the story, rather they pull you out of it. A History of Violence does have a sex scene and it's a pretty graphic one. Not only does it work for the film, but it's actually one of the more important scenes. It succeeds on multiple levels by homing in on a relationship that's on the rocks and exploring what both characters are desiring at that given time. It's something you have to see to fully understand.
The film grabs you from the first five minutes and never lets go after that. Each character is set up and developed excellently, from Tom's teenage son Jack, a reclusive nerd who just wants to make it through high school without getting his butt kicked, right down to Charlotte (Deborah Drakeford), one of Tom's employees at the diner who has a good soul and an innocent heart. Again these characters are purposeful, serving a vital part in the film's overall story.
And what a grand story A History of Violence turns out to be. I literally have nothing bad to say about it. Therefore, I give a well-deserved 100.
I had no prior knowledge going into this movie aside from the fact that it's on the list of YouTube film critic Chris Stuckmann's "50 movies of the 2000's to see before you die." I was immediately intrigued by the opening sequence involving the two robbers, and Mortensen and family reeled me in the rest of the way. The family dynamic was effectively established, especially between Mortensen and Bello. The teenage son, played by Ashton Holmes, also played a big role, clearly developing his arc based on his father's actions. The school bully the son has to deal with was ridiculously overacted, though.
I used the word "intriguing" earlier, and that's how I'd define this movie overall. Without spoiling anything, I will say that Mortensen delivers a heck of a performance with extreme contrasts in his character motives. The movie is equal parts cause and effect, my favorite aspect being the effect. There's a scene before the final act that really stands out, and, unfortunately, the movie dies down from there. William Hurt's character is introduced with under 20 minutes left of film (including credits), and his average performance garnered him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor despite having less screen time than Godzilla in the new Godzilla movie (under 7 minutes - I went back and timed it). He wasn't bad, but there wasn't enough there to justify the nomination.
Overall, A History of Violence is a solid movie about family dynamics. Despite a weak ending, I enjoyed Mortensen and Bello a lot. If you enjoy solid acting and don't mind a bit of blood, give this one a watch.
Final grade: B-