Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) lives a quiet life with his lawyer wife Edie (Maria Bello), teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and young daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes) in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana. One night, during an attempted robbery in his diner, Tom protects his staff and clients and kills the two criminals in self defense. He is immediately dubbed a hero, but the media attention attracts a stranger to town, a man in a black suit (Ed Harris), who believes that Tom is the man who had wronged him in the past.
 

3.5
A unique thriller with a clear message.

A History Of Violence A History of Violence is the latest film from Canadian director, David Cronenberg (EXistenZ, The Fly, Dead Ringers) and is based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.

Viggo Mortensen plays Tom Stall, a small town business owner, who runs into a lot of strife. Tom Stall is living a peaceful existence in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana, with Edie (Maria Bello), his loving wife and his two children. Everything is hunky dory ' on the surface. Tom and his wife have a healthy sex life and the kids appear happy, except that son, Jack (Ashton Holmes) is being bullied at school by the local jock jerk. One night, Tom's deftly dispatches two violent criminals at his diner. His precision killings are a huge surprise to everyone, including himself and Tom reluctantly becomes an instant hero.

Seeing Tom on the tube, Philadelphia gangster, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), arrives in town, convinced that Tom is the old foe, Joey Cusack, who mutilated his eye, twenty years ago. Tom is forced to confront this mistaken case of identity and struggles to protect himself, his family and to keep hidden, unwelcome remnants of his past.

Cronenberg applies his usual staples - sex and gore in the most intense scenes. The manner in which the criminals at the start of Violence, think nothing of murdering a small child is shocking and the brutal sex between Tom and his wife in the latter half of the movie is equally extreme. It's an approach that many will find bold, although I often found it frustrating.

Cronenberg's direction in these heightened scenes felt staged and heavy handed, so I was never surprised or in suspense, as to what was about to happen or about the film's outcome. It keeps us at an arms length to the story, never allowing us to truly feel for Tom's predicament. However, this is still a very intriguing story about identity, violence and self-preservation. It's hinged on our uncertainty about Tom's identity and for me - it didn't matter whether Tom was a good guy or not.

Mortensen's performance - hinting of something darker and edgier is well pitched and Ed Harris and William Hurt, who appears later in the film, both dominate the screen. The film ultimately works because Cronenberg has a savage message to deliver, about our acceptance of violence on screen. He makes us conspirators in the violence ' reminding us of the potential fury that is buried in everyone of us. It's present when Tom's son, Jack, violently beats up his bully, or when Tom saves his staff and customers at the diner with violence. But as we cheer as the baddies get their comeuppance, the Director swiftly turns it around, reminding us of the moral and social consequences, all the while pointing a finger at trigger happy America.