HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:

A History of Violence

The title of David Cronenberg’s latest film feels ironic considering the director’s filmography, although it is doubtful that it is intended to be.

His latest effort, based on the graphic novel of the same name written by John Wagner with art by Vince Locke, is not merely an adaptation, but more a contemplative dissertation on violence as it resides in our genetic heritage, our pasts, and most importantly our individual futures.

The plot is simple enough, centering on a mild-mannered family man named Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen). Tom owns a diner in town called Stall’s Diner, and lives a relatively quiet life with his wife Edie (Maria Bello) and their two children Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Hayes). Altogether, life is good for the Stalls, they are well known by the townsfolk and live day to day in relative home-spun bliss.

Jack is the only Stall who seems to suffer initially, and most of his struggles equate to High School awkwardness and growing pains. At breakfast Jack explains to his father that he dislikes P.E. class, specifically softball, to which Tom tries his best to comfort and console his son. In a moment of triumph, Jack manages to field a game-winning catch, which happened to belong to a bully in his gym class which results in Jack being pushed around and called all sorts of names in the locker room.

Despite this egregious behavior, Jack diffuses the scenario with humor and wit, narrowly avoiding a potentially violent situation. In essence, Jack does what he feels is right, and manages to come out on top temporarily.

One night, while closing up the diner, Tom is confronted by two very insistent ne’er do wells thirsting for coffee, and perhaps more. Guns are pulled, lives are threatened, and Tom springs into action, brutally slaying his attackers and saving his life along with those of his employees in a fell swoop. Tom’s heroics make him the talk of the town and a media celebrity in a blink of an eye, and before long a new set of characters begin lurking around town and Tom specifically. Tom makes for a bashful interview, insisting that the sooner this thing blows over the better while claiming that anyone would have done as he did in such a situation.

When confronted by the nefariously mangled Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) in the diner the next day, Tom is stunned to be persistently referred to as Joey, a name he insists is not his. Carl believes that Tom is a man named Joey Cusack, a mob thug from Philadelphia, and this “Tom” persona is merely a guise to afford Joey a chance to start over.

This poses a problem for Tom, who insists that he is not who Carl claims he is, yet the strain begins to show as the family, Edie and Jack specifically, begin to question the sudden changes in Tom’s behavior and demeanor. Whether or not Tom is who Carl claims him to be is an interesting predicament to ponder, but the real brilliance of this tale stems from Cronenberg’s analysis of violence and duality of man, two themes he has championed in his work from day one.

Those not interested in spoilers should likely leave this review with that.

Cronenberg’s adaptation is painted in shades of subtle brilliance. This is, hands down, the director’s most accessible work since 1986’s The Fly. Cronenberg continues to churn out amazingly well crafted tales that dip into the remotely bizarre and intriguingly realistic.

Mortensen’s performance is compelling, and the look and feel of small town life is utterly simplistic yet believable throughout. Maria Bello shines as Tom’s concerned and devoted wife, and she develops Edie in very subtle movements as the events start to ratchet up to suspicious levels of tension. Ed Harris turns in a chilling turn as the gnarled face thug Carl, a man so seemingly supernatural that his fate comes as a shock.

Lastly, yet certainly of note, is William Hurt’s surprise turn late in the third act of the film. To divulge his name or character’s motivation would be a disservice to the film itself, but to put it plainly, this is a side of Hurt that has never been exposed before on camera, both humorous and odd wrapped up in an appetite for danger.

Moving along, Cronenberg examines violence here in interesting subtleties. An early act session of intimacy is depicted in long shot, almost uncomfortably natural and earnest while invoking the feeling of near voyeurism although never stooping to mere exploitation. This sequence is wholesome, even if the content is raw and distinct. This sequence is paralleled in the later acts with another session of intimacy, this time following certain revelations regarding Tom’s past. This time passion is not delicate and nurturing, but instead a flurry of pushing and pulling, restrained force with a grippingly dark edge. The contrast is too distinct to be missed.

Another sequence of note comes in Jack’s arc, in which a second confrontation with his High School bully comes to an entirely different conclusion than first witnessed prior to Tom’s encounter in the diner. Tom clings to his ideals, despite being able to repress his inner “Joey,” a raucous killer capable of doing that which the meek Tom is incapable of doing. Without Joey, Tom was doomed to perish that fateful night, just as without the emergence of Joey, Jack would have continued along his passive course of dealing with conflict.

Justification of violence? Hardly. Cronenberg never stoops to glorifying the bloody and grotesque conflicts his characters encounter. Instead, he seems to be raising the questions: Is a violent nature able to be curbed? What is worse: attempting to atone for sins passed, or never having sinned at all? Are we forever judged by our past, or do our actions in the present make any difference in this judgment?

A History of Violence intends to pose, not answer, questions such as these in regard to individuals and humanity as a whole. The film succeeds, and leaves us with yet another brilliant Cronenberg vehicle to mull over and reflect upon.


Mario Anima

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites