The Hive

I'm just another dude with too much time on his hands. It really doesn't have anything to do with ants.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A History of Violence review

A History of Violence fucking RUUUUUUULES

Okay, here's the real one.

Viggo Mortensen’s life in A History of Violence begins as blandly unbelievable, a caricature of American values. He has a beautiful, wholesome wife in Maria Bello, two smart kids, a small business and a respected place in his Midwest community. He probably even has a copy of Oliver North's autobiography under his bed somewhere.

He also has the conviction to act decisively, and when his employees' lives are threatened by two desperate drifters, he has no qualms about killing them both.

His actions earn him a brief national spotlight, enough to make him a reluctant local hero and draw the attention of Ed Harris, a half-blind Philly mobster convinced he sees in Mortensen the young gangster who scarred his face and his eye with barb wire before disappearing into the American landscape. Here's where the film takes off: the bizarre confrontation of Mortensen's steady denial of this past and the casual malice of Harris is outstanding, producing the kind of dread that wrings your stomach in clammy hands before bursting into inevitable violence.

A History of Violence is a top-notch thriller that plays on Mortensen's excellently humble performance, but the disturbing directorial choices of David Cronenberg push it into something greater. The violence is there, along with the honest moral satisfaction of a man defending himself and his family, but Cronenberg lingers on the physical realities of that violence--the pulverized noses, the blackened bullet wounds and slowly pooling blood--until you can't help but feel queasy for supporting Mortensen's fight.

His family suffers, too; his son Ashton Holmes is suspended for fighting, and as Mortensen shifts between the man he is and the man he was, wife Bello wavers between disgust and support. When a brawl between Bello and Mortensen abruptly swaps gears to frighteningly angry sex, it's impossible to untangle the emotions of the pair. The emotions of the audience, doubtlessly, are equally confused.

A History of Violence is tightly plotted and superbly acted. It's the subtle horror of Cronenberg's direction, however, that emerges as its ultimate payoff.


At 6:52 PM, Anonymous cricket said...

cronenberg rules!!!! my favourite movie of his is 'dead ringers', and i loved him as the hit man in 'to die for'. i didn't know it was his film, now i'm defo gonna go see it!

At 2:26 AM, Blogger Ed said...

I highly, highly recommend seeing this. It rules on a vast many levels.

I think I've only seen The Fly and Naked Lunch of Cronenberg's, but I've heard a lot about him over the years. So it was awesome to see him kick so much ass directing this one.


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