After a lackluster summer film season, it’s up to fall to offer some movie redemption.
The end of August and the majority of September are referred to as “dumping grounds,” where the studios dump all their movies that don’t fit in either the packed summer season or the end-of-the-year Oscar season. Occasionally, a few films are released that are worth viewing. One such film is David Cronenberg’s latest, “A History of Violence.”
Based on a largely unknown graphic novel, the film follows small-town diner owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), who lives his normal, uneventful life with his children and wife, Edie (Maria Bello). One day, two drifter criminals try to rob his restaurant, and in self-defense, he kills them. He is branded as a hero in the media, and becomes an instant local celebrity. The next day, Carl Fogaty (Ed Harris), a mysterious mobster from Philadelphia, pays him a visit. Calling Tom “Joey,” he is looking for revenge. He proceeds to stalk Tom and his family until Tom ultimately reaches his breaking point.
The acting is top notch in the film, with a stellar cast performing at their best. Viggo Mortensen is reserved as Tom, and is a believable character. His character has a mysterious past, and the way Mortensen plays him, the audience doesn’t know whether to believe him or Carl Fogaty. Ed Harris is also great as Fogaty, playing a genuinely creepy character. The rest of the cast performs admirably as well, with Maria Bello playing the wife caught in the middle of everything, and William Hurt as a mobster whose scenes add an element of dark humor that is evident in most of Cronenberg’s films.
At 95 minutes, the movie is short and sweet. There are a few subplots that seem a little extraneous, including one with Tom’s son and a bully at school, but they don’t last too long. A few plot elements are left dangling though, which felt a little sloppy. In one scene, it is mentioned that Tom might have had multiple personalities, and there is an intensity that suggests that this might be an important plot point, but it is never raised again. Despite this, the story is straightforward enough to keep the audience entertained and involved the entire time. n
“A History of Violence” is currently playing in select cities, including Washington, D.C. It opens nationally on Friday, Sept. 30.