Leading a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife and their two children in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana, mild-mannered Tom Stall cherishes his simple, uneventful existence. However, their idyllic lifestyle is shattered when, one night, Tom saves his customers and friends in self-defence, foiling a vicious attempted robbery in his diner by two violent wanted criminals. Now, heralded as a local hero, Tom's life is changed overnight, attracting unwanted attention, and a national media feeding frenzy. Uncomfortable with his newfound celebrity, Tom tries to return to normalcy, only to find himself confronted by a mysterious man who arrives in town believing Tom is the man who wronged him in the past. More and more, as Tom and his family struggle to cope with their new reality and this case of mistaken identity, they have no other choice but to fight back and protect all that they hold dear. But, is there more to Tom than meets the eye? Does he have, indeed, a history of violence?Written by
In a deleted scene, Tom dreams of shooting Carl Fogarty in the diner, but the scene was cut because David Cronenberg thought it was too reminiscent of the director's own previous Videodrome (1983). In the scene, Fogarty, his chest blown open by a shotgun, the exposed ends of ribs smoking, nonetheless rises from the floor and aims a handgun at Tom. Along with the deleted scene, the director and crew joke that Fogarty should pull the gun out of his gaping abdomen, an "homage" by the director to himself and to "Videodrome". See more »
The shot of Tom/Joey entering the Track & Turf bar in Philly, shows several neon signs of beer logos. The Beck's one faces into the room. But being mounted in the window it would be expected to be turned around so it could be read from outside. See more »
There are some minute differences between the US and the International version when it comes to some of the violent scenes:
Fogarty's thug, who gets his nose smashed into his skull has more blood spurt out in the International version in the shot where he is dying on the ground.
When Joey stomps on Richie's thug's throat, he spits blood (instead of it 'welling up') and the sound effect of the neck breaking is louder. Both shots last the same length of time and use the same take, the amount of blood was simply toned down digitally for the MPAA. Most video versions outside the U.S. use the 'international version' but the shots appear in the supplements on the U.S. DVD (In the featurette titled 'Violence's History', Cronenberg shows the U.S. and international cut scenes side by side and explains the reason why there wasn't a standard 'unrated' version in the U.S. was because the changes were so small).
Straw Dogs comparisons be damned, this is a riveting experience that finds Cronenberg bringing his "A" game.
We are in a a small community driven town, restaurant owner Tom Stall becomes the hero of the town when he shoots and kills two murdering robbers at the restaurant. Not long after, facially scarred Carl Fogarty arrives in town proclaiming that Tom is actually a former gangster from Philadelphia who needs to go back to pay his dues. As Fogarty and his Hench Men put the pressure on, Stall and his family are in danger of being overwhelmed with violence and mistrust.
One thing that can never be said about David Cronenberg is that he is a very predictable director, his output of course, if we are all honest, is very up and down, bewildering critics and fans in equal measure. Thankfully A History Of Violence finds Cronenberg on particularly devilish form, taking the graphic novel origins of the piece, written by John Wagner & Vince Locke, and crafting a modern day Western that is using violence as some sort of escalating disease. This is the point surely? The graphic violence (handled with morose tension by Cronenberg) is the main character in the film, regardless of any past history that Stall may have had, the violence arrives into this family, totally unwanted and unexpected, and then latches on to them to maybe destroy them?
With that point of interest to note, A History Of Violence can be seen as a blood brother to Cronenberg's wonderful remake of The Fly, the unwanted entering the fray and spreading its disease to the point of no return. There is the use of the husband and wife's ongoing sex life as a seriously smart strand in the escalating story, where once at the beginning there is fluffy erotic intercourse, then the on going danger in their lives brings darkness and borderline sadism, it's very relevant, as is the son axis as he goes through a dramatic change when the violence and threats engulf the family. Cronenberg gleefully ties all the murky threads together to ask us for a reaction to the violence up there on the screen.
The cast, with the exception of a fish out of water performance from Ashton Holmes as the son, Jack, is fine. Viggo Motensen plays the duality of the role as Tom Stall with much verve, while Maria Bello shows exactly why she shouldn't be working for food in hopeless miscast assignments like The Mummy 3. Ed Harris gives us a nice line in villain duties, and William Hurt crops up late in the piece to almost steal the film with his darkly disturbing menacing point of worth. Peter Suschitzky's photography enhances the primary colours for added impact when the mood swings down dark roads, and Howard Shore's musical score is constantly ominous, where he blends his own score for Silence of the Lambs with a sort of Berlioz like edginess.
All in all it's a very interesting and sneakily crafty picture that above all else shows that when on form, Cronenberg still has very much to offer modern age cinema. Now, about Straw Dogs? 8.5/10
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