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A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005)

Director: David Cronenberg

Screenplay: John Wagner, Vince Locke (From a graphic novel)

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes, Stephen McHattie

Color, approx 96 Minutes
MPAA Classification: R

Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller

Reviewed by Jim Lewis

Attention all fans of action/ thriller/ vengeance/ and come-uppance. Your movie is here.

Viggo Mortenson is Tom Stall, husband of Edie (Maria Bello), father of Jack (Ashton Holmes.) The opening narrative shows us the idyllic, small town American, café-owning family that knows the whole town, and loves each other like we wish our family did. Simultaneously, a couple of bad dudes show us their bad sides, before choosing the Stall family’s diner for a robbery and likely a more grisly incident.

Unable to appease the thugs with the day’s receipts and capitulation, Tom is able to turn the tables on the evil-doers, removing them from the active roster. The heroism catches the eye of the national news and Tom tries to aw-shuks the reporters into submission, but his actions have been too dramatic. The eye-witnesses sing his praises, to all the media reps.

Soon after, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) comes into the crowded diner with two henchmen, looking very much like a made-man. With chilling, evil charm, he accuses Tom of being someone else, someone he really doesn’t like. Tom is having none of it.

Tom’s son Jack has issues of his own at school. He is being bullied. He manages to deflect the ugly approaches with humor for the time being. But his dad’s heroism increases the focus on him.

Tom Stall wrestles with his past, denying it as long as he can, keeping the lid down on his emotional jack-in-the-box. Wife Edie, keeping the passion alive with her spouse, is torn between despair over his secrecy and fascination with a real bad-boy in her bed. Young Jack battles new demons with this new role model for handling big problems. Director Cronenberg never lets "Violence" descend into two-dimensionality.

The DVD special-features lovers won’t be dissappointed: David Cronenberg’s Commentary; Documentary of the making of "Violence," deleted scenes, three featurettes. I enjoyed the extras.

If you liked Sam Peckinpah’s "Straw Dogs" with Dustin Hoffman, or "The Magnificent Seven" (with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughan and Horst Buchholz), then check out "A History of Violence."

Grist for post-movie chat over coffee:

What happens to the Stalls?
Do you think there will be more fall-out for Joey?
Do you think that Jack went too far in the hall?

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