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A History of Violence (R)

Release Date: September 23rd, 2005 (NYC-Loews 68th and Broadway)
September 23rd, 2005 (Nationwide) by New Line Cinema.
The Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes, Heidi Hayes.
Directed by David Cronenberg.

BASIC PREMISE: Tom Stall (Mortensen),a family man, becomes a small-town hero when he kills two men who try to rob his diner. Soon after, he is stalked by Carl (Harris) who claims that his name is not Tom Stall.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Viggo Mortensen gives a great performance as Tom Stall. He has kindness in his eyes, yet, along with his physical capabilities to punch and kick others to defend himself, he is quite a well-rounded, complex man. At first, his domestic life is very normal and peaceful with his beautiful wife (Bell) as well as his teenage son (Holmes) and young daughter (Hayes). However, his family life is quickly disrupted by a mysterious man named Carl who continues stalks him in a black limousine. With great cinematography and musical score, Cronenberg creates a very strong mood of paranoia and hysteria throughout this film. It is very exciting and suspenseful to try to figure out who Carl is and why he is stalking Tom. Ed Harris also gives a convincing performance. He makes Carl look threatening and scary just by his mere presence---although, his looks are scary, too with scars on his face. The scenes of violence are appropriately graphic and disturbing, but, fortunately, it is not excessive. There is also a brief sex scene between Tom and his wife, but no nudity. The nudity does come in one shocking scene as his wife enters a room completely naked. The main reason why this film is thoroughly engaging is because of all of the intricate plot details that gradually connect to make for a consistently tense and often surprising ride.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: It is very thought-provoking to piece together all the piece of the plot's intricate puzzle. As for this film's messages, it difficult to discuss most of them without hinting at plot twists that would ruin all of the pleasure of all surprises. The only message that would not ruin it is that violence is not a productive way to solve one's problems unless it is strictly in self defense. When Tom's son beats up his school bully and sends him to the hospital, Tom is rightfully furious at him. INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.


THE BOTTOM LINE: A thoroughly engaging, surprising, and suspenseful film with great cinematography and outstanding performances by Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. Not since Fargo has small-town life and violence been mixed with such style.


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