Most helpful positive review
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Another triumph in a stellar career...
on August 23, 2006
Most people who didn't like this film didn't like it because they consider it a Viggo Mortensen film. It is a David Cronenberg film, and one of his best at that. I've been a Cronenberg fan for several years now, and he is one of my all time favourite directors along with Kurosawa and Gilliam. He has been moving away from his patented "body horror" films into a more somber and psychological realm. As a result, "A History of Violence" has more in common with "Spider" than it does with "Videodrome." It is deliberately slow which helps to underscore the bursts of, well, violence, rendering them all the more shocking. If you are expecting a Cronenberg horror film, or even a Hollywood action movie, look elsewhere.
I saw this movie at the theater (I was amazed that we even got it in our small town) and was dismayed at the crowd reaction (though it was a rather small crowd). At the end, just about everyone walked out muttering something about how stupid the conclusion was ("All they did was look at each other... whine whine..."). Most of these people cannot even pronounce the name Cronenberg and were undoubtedly expecting the latest Viggo action movie. Truth be told, I think the casting of Viggo Mortensen was a mistake. Now hear me out. Like everyone, I love Lord of the Rings. I love Viggo. As his performance in "A History of Violence" demonstrates, he is an incredibly gifted actor. Unfortunately, he seems doomed to be forever remembered as Aragorn. How many people saw this movie because of Lord of the Rings? And how many of those were incredibly disappointed? I am reminded of when P.T. Anderson cast Adam Sandler in "Punch-Drunk Love." Fans of "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights" loved the film because it was a P.T. Anderson film. Fans of Adam Sandler were rather less receptive. Even though he did an amazing job (this means a lot coming from me, as I am not a big Sandler fan), most people wanted him to just punch someone and talk with a silly voice.
"A History of Violence," like all of Cronenberg's films, is not an easy picture to deal with or even understand completely. You have to look beneath the surface, appreciate the many moments of understated silence, the startling bursts of violence, and also, think of your reaction to it. What does the film say about you, about us as a society and our penchant for self-destructive action and sexuality. I don't have all the answers; I doubt if even Cronenberg does, but rest assured that this is not a film to take lightly. It is art. It is meant to be studied and reflected upon, not thrown on on a Friday night when you're bored. If you are not an adventurous movie goer, chances are you should pass on "A History of Violence." If you have a deep love of cinema, however, I don't think there has been a better film released this year.