A History of Violence – Review

Worth seeing: if you want to see Cronenberg coming in from the cold and embracing the mainstream with a quietly compelling and successful thriller
Director:David Cronenberg
Featuring:Ed Harris, Maria Bello, Viggo Mortensen, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes, Greg Bryk, Kyle Schmid, Peter MacNeill, Stephen McHattie
Length:96 minutes
Released:30th September 2005


When family man Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) kills two gunmen who try to rob his cafe and rape his waitress, he becomes a local hero.

All his fellow small-town residents praise him and the local media keep trailing him for interviews. His face is splashed over all the newspapers.

Suddenly, his cafe is bustling with more customers than he can manage.

Among his new clientele is Carol Fogarty (Ed Harris) – a scarred gangster, insisting, despite all denials, that he knows Tom by the name Joey Cusack.

Tom insists that it’s a case of mistaken identity, but when Fogarty threatens to bring Tom’s children into the equation, his past well and truly comes back to haunt him.


David Cronenberg’s quietly compelling thriller is his most mainstream movie in years.

It’s an intelligent and thoughtful study of identity, blurring the lines between good and evil.

Ed Harris’s knowing menace neatly balances Viggo Mortensen’s ruthless determination to keep his past where it belongs, while the innocence of those around him is compromised.

The plot takes a while to kick in, but once it does, it slowly tightens its grip on your interest, and just when you feel the story drawing to a close, another avenue opens up to take Tom further from the comfortable life he’s built for himself.

Cronenberg’s skilful directing is rewarded with deservedly powerful performances from the central cast.

Cronenberg’s shown that he doesn’t need to toy with structure and bend the rules of cinema to produce a thoroughly entertaining drama. He’s proved that loitering in the mainstream is nothing to be ashamed of.