A History of Violence
Getting shot hurts. Not only that, it's incredibly messy. This is lesson #1 from Cronenberg's ultraviolent new offering, A History of Violence. It's a film which cleverly lulls you into the lotus-like world of small town comforts: howdy-do neighbours; high school football; a town square; a diner. The Stall family lives in this idyllic slice of perfection. Tom Stall (Mortensen) runs the coffee and pie diner and considers himself "The luckiest son of a bitch alive," and rightly so, with a loving family highlighted by a dress-up fantasy full-filling wife.
Not soon after...BAM! Cronenberg steps in and shows us who's making this film. This is not the universe of The Matrix or action heroes. No comic book wounds here. In this reality bullets have weight and when they strike soft bodies carnage rules.
As the title promises it IS brutally violent, but it's the lulls in between which give muscle to the violence. Cronenberg, showing restraint not often attributed to him, presents a family that wants to love and trust but have their world torn inside out by both strangers and loved ones. Often this is a setup so that Cronenberg can throw another vicious haymaker. And he spares no mercy.
There's a delicious mystery here as well, carried on the able shoulders of Mortensen but assisted by a uniformly excellent cast which boasts Ed Harris, William Hurt and a superb Maria Bello. They take a slice of Americana, rip it open, and show us what's inside. And it's not malts at the drugstore, you can be sure.
You're looking for a wake up kick to the guts? Cronenberg's got one in A History of Violence. And another. Now watch out for that sucker punch...
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