*** Official A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Bill McA, Sep 11, 2005.

  1. Bill McA

    Bill McA Producer

    Oct 18, 2000
    Likes Received:
    I just watched the film this morning.

    It's pretty damn good, despite something of a weak and disappointing third act. It's quite intense up until the point where William Hurt shows up in the film.

    Never read the graphic novel, so I don't know how it originally ends but the resolution of the film felt unfinished to me.

    The acting is solid throughout especially from Viggo and Ed Harris, the two sex scenes are fun and there are a couple of really nasty brief gore scenes.

    A solid 4/5 [​IMG] [​IMG]
  2. MikeRS

    MikeRS Screenwriter

    Jul 17, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Great Cronenberg, and definitely an example of 'all in the execution'. What could have been a simple pot boiler/genre exercise -- becomes a meditation on identity and violence. Repeat viewings might very well put this in the upper echelon of the filmmaker's best work. It definitely has as much subtext in it's veins as the more (seemingly) challenging subject matter in his oeuvre. And yeah, it's damn entertaining to boot. Can't wait to see it again.

    BTW, Viggo and Howard Shore go really well together. This film proves it. [​IMG]
  3. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

    Jul 16, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I’ve not seen many films by mr. Cronenberg, but I could get used to the guy. His new film is the most exhilarating cinematic experience I’ve seen since City of God. A History of Violence doesn’t have the breathless pace of that film, but watching it I had the same feeling of seeing a filmmaker completely in control of his craft. This is that most elusive of things- a film that is absolutely note-perfect. Every scene is dynamite. Not a wasted moment here. The acting by all is outstanding, especially mr. Mortenson, who achieves subtleties here that the LOTR scripts did not offer. What elevates the film to greatness is its content; the film works extremely well on both the level of a solemn critique of the ingrained nature of violence in man, and simply as a seriously ass-kicking piece of cinema. This is an art film that should be seen with a big crowd. My audience was terrific, completely drawn in by the film. It doesn’t bash us over the head with moral messages, but there’s plenty of subtext, the most interesting of which is the audience’s own reaction. There are echoes of Peckinpah here. Cronenberg seems to know how much we (Americans) enjoy what we publicly condemn. There are layers in this film that I know I have not fully thought through. Roger Ebert’s eloquent, and spoiler-filled, review discusses the film’s thematics in some detail. Salon.com also has a good interview with Cronenberg, which touches on the political aspect of the film (which I am ashamed to say I did not even pick up on). I’ve seen the film too recently to speak coherently about it, but I urge you all to give it a look. I really must say that the less you know of the plot the better. Stay away from reviews and trailers if you haven’t already. Just go see the bugger. You can’t not like this movie.

    (All IMHO, of course)

  4. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

    Aug 6, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Northern Virginia
    Real Name:
    Chuck Mayer
    Well, not opening day, but I did see the film. I was interested, but moreso as the mystery unfolded. The third act fit the film, but I was more interested in the family than in Tom's possible past.

    But it's an extremely well-made film with great performances all around. Especially from Mortensen and Bello. I am intrigued by the themes explored moreso than the rsolution of the subplot (the main film ends perfectly, I might add).

    And some of the critics are getting on this film, and clearly didn't know what the **** they were watching.

    As an example: Some critics thought Tom raped his wife on the staircase. What?!?!? She kissed him following the confrontation, and the violence turned into a fairly tense and (yes) violent scene of consensual sex. I thought that was made extremely clear...I didn't even think it was ambiguous.

    I didn't like the film as much as I thought, but I cannot say that it didn't deliver. It's rather thought-provoking, when you meet it halfway.

  5. ZacharyTait

    ZacharyTait Cinematographer

    Aug 10, 2003
    Likes Received:
    I saw this movie tonight and was blown away (pardon the pun [​IMG]). I don't think I've seen a David Cronenberg film (prepares to run...), but this one will lead me to search his films out on DVD sometime soon.

    Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and especially William Hurt turn in spectacular performances. William Hurt's performance reminded me of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow with the tics, twitches, and mannerisms that enlivened what otherwise would have been a routine performance.

    While I could complain that the guy harassing Jack was too one-dimensional, I've know guys who acted just like him, so I was happy to see him get his comeuppance.

    Shallow note: I really enjoyed Maria Bello's various states of undress, especially when she came out of the bathroom. [​IMG]
    Not so much seeing Viggo's ass during the sex on the stairs scene. I know other people would like to see that, just not me.
  6. Justin_S

    Justin_S Producer

    Mar 4, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Cronenberg is my favorite director thanks to his consistently amazing films and his tendency to never even come close to disappointing me. As expected, A History of Violence continues this tradition.

    This is certainly a much more straightforward film when compared to the rest of Cronenberg's body of work, but he has no trouble making this story his own. The general story is nothing new. The story of an individual hiding from a sinister past, only to have said past catch up with them is something that has been done a variety of times. Cronenberg makes it different though. He gives it a strong underlying depth, he gives you ideas to ponder over in your head. Ideas about man's tendency to solve things with violence, and about human culture's fascination with violence. Ideas about the passage of violence from one individual to another, be it through psychological trauma, or simply one person thinking "Hey, violence solved his problems. Why can't it mine?" Cronenberg also populates his film with several interesting characters, and he gives them more emotional weight than past films of this ilk are accustomed to.

    The acting in this film is very strong, and for these characters, it needed to be. Only the son struck me as not so great in the acting department, and he reminded me of Stephen Lack once or twice. Mortensen is really allowed to shine here. He has spent years taking on roles that don't allow him to showcase the true depth of his talent, but this is a very welcome change. He is subtle, intense, and conflicted. He hits all the right notes, and in many scenes, his face alone tells the story. Maria Bello is just as good as his distraught wife. She vividly portrays the shock and uncertainty of her family's situation. She doesn't know what to think of her husband anymore, and the scene on the stairwell, sort of a climax of her reaction to everything, is very powerful.

    On the villainous side of the equation, two of my favorite character actors, William Hurt and Ed Harris, do not disappoint. The underused Hurt manages to be a very likable character despite his murderous ways, and he cracked me up a few times with his comments, especially the mouth-to-mouth one. Harris, on the other hand, is so deliciously evil. He just nails the dark nature of his character, and he steals every scene he's in.

    In typical Cronenbergian fashion, the violence in this film is graphic, and given the title and the director, it should be. It was nothing new to me, but some of the images on display made the audience at my showing gasp in surprise and/or horror. I guess they weren't familiar with good ol' Cronenberg, hehe.

    Once again, Howard Shore proves to be one of the best composers in the business. He delivers yet another lovely score, the perfect tune for this story. His scores and Cronenberg's films go together like bread and butter. This film is one of Cronenberg's best looking works too. Gorgeous cinematograpy and scene compositions. This film is just as lovely to look at as the underrated eXistenZ.

    Anyway, the bottom line is that Cronenberg has done it again. This is a stunning, thought provoking picture with some of the best performances you'll see all year. Long live the new flesh? Long live Cronenberg! This gets 5 stars.
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
    Likes Received:
    Real Name:
    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "A History of Violence". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.

  8. Cory H.

    Cory H. Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 22, 2005
    Likes Received:
    "A History of Violence"

    Tom Stall is an everyman. That's the impression you'd get from your first glance at the Viggo Mortensen helmed character. The Stall clan resides in the sleepy little town of Millbrook, Indiana, where they own and operate a anytown coffee shop. Before closing one evening, Tom is approached by a couple of would be robbers. With undue provocation, Tom leaps into action, seemingly unassumingly, given his demeanor, albeit, comfortably. That evening tugs at a thread, subsequently unraveling a spool of questions in an interrogation brought on by Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty.

    David Cronenberg's films are usually best when he has full creative control, as he did with "The Brood", "Existenz", "Scanners", and "The Fly" to name a few. This time, he assumed "the chair", so naturally, the following tirade is not entirely his fault. Cronenberg, who is bluntly hit or miss, with the respective extremes. "Violence", on the whole, was a unimpressive film. The Atlas of the film, Mortensen's Stall was one dimensional. Unassuming, but nothing to lend to his credibility as a once troubled individual with ties and a disposition. Maria Bello's wife-figure inherited the range for most of the cast.

    Having been touted as a suspense, there was virtually none to speak of. A one minute standoff with his son in holding was about as "guess what happens next" as the movie ever got. Naturally, almost like a poor man's "Bourne Identity", Stall flipped on the Hulk switch, and the scene deviated to violence you knew the outcome of from the beginning. Gore galore. The signature Cronenberg stylings were, at times, out of place, uncomfortable, contrived, and at times, totally uncredible. It took some guesswork to determine wether or not Tom's son, Jack, would act violently against provocation, testing Tom's morals, which, in the final act, we come to find are no better than they were before "the change" occured.

    Style over substance seemed to be a reoccuring theme in this film. Sex and violence sell, obviously. Too bad movies can't have cohesive, engaging stories to keep themselves rolling. That's one Cronenberg styling that was missing from this one. Quality. Instead, we got a boring, predictible thriller with scenes of questionable "ooh" enducing violence and forced sex scenes to make us forget that the story was really over, and you could have drawn your own conclusion, and had been right, about 45 minutes into the movie.

    Passola, if you ask me.
  9. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

    May 12, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Just saw this today. Stealing from above: "What could have been a simple pot boiler/genre exercise"... The problem is, that all it really is. Really, you can see where things are going early on, even if you didn't see the trailers.

    So, being that there are no surprises, you hope for something being said by the filmmaker about the subject, but I don't know if he really makes a statement about violence and how it affects the people around you. There are some questions asked, but not answered.

    It also doesn't help that the 3rd act has a severe tone change, and really doesn't deal much with the issues of the rest of the film.

    We definitly get some of the trappings we expect from Cronenberg, with some intense sexual situations that do about as much as you can in an "R" rated film, and some disturbing looking gore. Problem is, it isn't nearly as thought provoking as you'd expect. This is very by-the-numbers.

    I'm not sure what the critics see here, but it doesn't live up to the billing.

  10. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
    Likes Received:
    I found this film to be a head-scratcher. How acceptable is violence? I guess that's the point, but my problem was that stupidity is the driving force of the drama. Stupid people pushing around "docile" people until docile people react with violence and show a scary natural acumen for such violence.

    What's the difference between stupid people inciting violence and docile people returning in kind with violence? Does it matter? Of course, self-preservation is primarily all you need to make it acceptable. Deep down, every one of us has the propensity for violence, how far do we need to be pushed to engage in it? Violence isn't always bad, it's a means to an end. It's never the best option but it's always an option. Some people exhaust the options before resorting to violence, others use it as a primary option.

    I know there are people who will take difference positions on the "sex on the stairwell" scene, but I take the negative view, even though it may have ended up "consensual", it started out rather distasteful and progressed and ended in the same fashion for me. But who was the victim here? At times, I think it was the viewers.

    I thought the 3rd act was just more stupidity on display, which undermined whatever point Cronenberg was trying to make.

    I give it 2.75 stars, or a grade of C+.

Share This Page