A History of Violence is terrific entertainment. From the opening scene, to the last scene, the film absolutely engages the viewer into this world of love, conversion, and forgiveness battling an unforgiving past of hate and violence.
The film opens with two of the most repulsive villains in film history. They are repulsive because they are uncomfortable realistic in their psychopathy and lust for violence. Later, the viewer is then manipulated in experiencing the exhilaration of violence when these two villains finally meet their match in someone who is just as comfortable with violence, but without the lust for it. It is rather disconcerting, and one can see how dangerous it is to humanity, when justice and violence become allies, since in the end something is nevertheless taken away from our spirit. The interesting thing about this film, I believe, is how the film doesn't just exploit the entertainment value of violence, but attempts to explore its impact on the humanity of good people.
Cronenberg does an excellent job in balancing these two themes. We get an exciting story that has violence, certainly, but we have an unusual character development in the anti-hero of the film, played by Viggo Mortensen, in another fine performance, and the interaction he has with his family, particularly his wife, played by Maria Bello, in what can only be described as a remarkable performance. Ms. Bello conveys a wonderful diversity of emotions, from uninhibited sensuality, sensitivity, and maternal nurturing to moral strength and courage.
Special mention has to go out to the villains in this film, for without them there would be no movie. I found Stephen McHattie and Greg Bryk absolutely outstanding as the two psychopaths that open the film. They were truly frightening men, the kind one prays you never ever meet in your lifetime. Ed Harris is wonderful as the bitter gangster who has his heart set on revenge, and William Hurt, while maybe a little too off the top in his performance, nevertheless is able to convey adequately a morally bankrupt man without a soul.
In my opinion, this is Cronenberg's best film to date, and with his fine follow-up to this film, Eastern Promises, is developing into one of the great directors of our generation.
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.
I dont consider myself to be a Cronenberg fan but this film was just outstanding. Story, characters. I wont say too much because of spoilers but there are twists and turns in this. It will hold your interest. I love the artwork on the steelbook better than the art on the Blu Ray or DVD case so I decided to splurge for. Steelbooks are really cool The extras are the same, basically the disc is the same - but its in blu ray steelbook packaging.
Even though I am not generally a big fan of action movie, I am fascinated by that powerful movie, well played, very human, very original with Viggo M. and Ed Harris. The two love scenes are very different from each other and shows the duality of the principal personage. William Hurt plays the "bro" and was nominated for an Oscar for his part in that movie and he really deserved it. The young son is vulnerable and strong in the same time. The direction of the actors is simply marvelous and it is one of my favorite action films.