Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by:Josh Olson
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes, Peter MacNeill
Released: March 9, 2006
Grade: A-

A History Of Violence is a craftily written film where you never know what’s around the corner.  Tom Stall (Mortensen) is quiet, softly spoken man who lives in a sleepy American town.  It’s the kind of place where everyone knows everyone and nothing newsworthy ever happens.

That is until two gangsters stop off for coffee (and money) on their way through.  They are heavily armed are try to hold up Tom and a few customers inside the diner.  Tom instinctively reacts and manages to kill them both before they have the chance to do likewise.

Tom is now a hero.  Those at the diner knew they wouldn’t have survived without his bravery.  The story is all over the television and makes the front page of the newspaper.  He is applauded and thanked by people he meets in the street.  Tom is grateful but he just wants to return to his standard life – working hard and spending time with his loving wife, Edie (Bello), and two children.

This will not happen.  The life he has forged will not be the same again.  The arrival of three more gangsters will see to that.

For acclaimed director David Cronenberg (eXistenZ, Spider), this is his most commercial film in many years.  That said, he still likes to push the envelope.  The violence is extremely graphic and the sex scenes are quite explicit.  You could tell from the reaction from the audience at my screening that they were definitely caught off guard.

Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello are terrific in their roles but the more memorable performances come from the supporting cast.  William Hurt appears in the film for less than 10 minutes and yet managed to earn an Academy Award nomination.  Even better is Ed Harris who remains one of America’s most underappreciated actors.  Whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy, Harris nails each and every role.

The film is serious in nature but there’s an underlying comedic tone when lends itself more to the black comedy genre.  However you classify it, this is one original film you really should see!