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7.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 656 Ratings

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  1. ChazG.
    Mar 17, 2006
    8
    A history of violence hits hard at the climactic scenes. The film also gives a decent character analysis and demonstrates how an individual can change. Overall a good movie.
  2. DavidT.
    Mar 19, 2006
    8
    Its amazing how so many people just dont get it - yet they appear to be quite articulate and perceptive from the quality of their writing. A Western dressed up as a small town thriller. Over the Top but delightful performances from Ed HArris and William Hurt. Viggo demonstrates that he remains a moderately skilled actor but in so many ways its hard to imagine anyone else playing the part. Its amazing how so many people just dont get it - yet they appear to be quite articulate and perceptive from the quality of their writing. A Western dressed up as a small town thriller. Over the Top but delightful performances from Ed HArris and William Hurt. Viggo demonstrates that he remains a moderately skilled actor but in so many ways its hard to imagine anyone else playing the part. He had this effect in he LOTR Trilogy. This is a fun romp with some seriously tense moments. Expand
  3. DaveF.
    Mar 19, 2006
    9
    There was nothing predictable about this, clear up to the end we still don't know for sure where's Joey. Seeing the ultra violence might have led some reviewers to make a knee jerk reaction about the movie, not giving full credit to the complexity of this story.
  4. EvanS.
    Mar 20, 2006
    9
    Richly layered character piece wrapped around brief bursts of action and violence. Sets up the viewer to root for the violence and then when it is all over graphically shows the mangled results to show audience just what it was rooting for. One of the best films of the year but don't go in expecting a Hollywood action movie.
  5. Al
    Apr 23, 2006
    9
    A disturbing and emotionally arousing film. Not for the faint at heart. Ed Harris and William Hurt are delightfully perverse in a strangely honest way. Even though Mortensen's multiple-personality like transformations are not entirely convincing from a real world perspecitve, he does a very fine acting job.
  6. EvanS
    Apr 26, 2006
    9
    "Ther are so many plot holes in this movie." I have seen this on all of these user reviews and i would like to say that there are NO plot holes. The movie is leaving us with questions we cant figure out. That's what makes it so good. It's a --psychological--- movie. Duh! And now i dont understand why everyone is talking about the sex scenes, and how that it is uncomfortable."Ther are so many plot holes in this movie." I have seen this on all of these user reviews and i would like to say that there are NO plot holes. The movie is leaving us with questions we cant figure out. That's what makes it so good. It's a --psychological--- movie. Duh! And now i dont understand why everyone is talking about the sex scenes, and how that it is uncomfortable. It has meaning to it. Both times they do it, it has meaning. Everybody is so simple minded and apathetic at really how this movie is executed. Damn good movie. Expand
  7. JonC.
    Apr 27, 2006
    10
    I have never seen a Cronenburg film before. So I don't give this movie a 10 because of him. I would suggest that any plot holes you think you see are not signficant if they are plot holes, but they are necessary to examine the characters. [***SPOILERS***] When Maria Bello is naked, notice the awkwardness between the two previously very close people. When the son (Jack, I think) beats I have never seen a Cronenburg film before. So I don't give this movie a 10 because of him. I would suggest that any plot holes you think you see are not signficant if they are plot holes, but they are necessary to examine the characters. [***SPOILERS***] When Maria Bello is naked, notice the awkwardness between the two previously very close people. When the son (Jack, I think) beats up the bullies, it asks the question: why is it right for his father to kill in self defence, but wrong for the son? How can the father ever again justify non-vioence? The movie deals with the question: when is violence justifyable? And it makes the viewer answer it. Apply it to Iraq, gang violence, spousal abuse, any issue, and you see that violence is a central part in American culture (and to be fair, Western culture generally.) Expand
  8. AdamSinger
    Apr 3, 2006
    10
    Brilliant.
  9. IgnatzM.
    Apr 5, 2006
    8
    The most incredible and shocking aspect of this movie is its ability to dredge up individuals whose only pleasure in viewing the film is their thrill in the violence. I would not suggest this movie to everyone looking for something to watch, but it was well executed and good at what it is, which is a visceral action movie about a man who is very hard to kill, very good at killing, and The most incredible and shocking aspect of this movie is its ability to dredge up individuals whose only pleasure in viewing the film is their thrill in the violence. I would not suggest this movie to everyone looking for something to watch, but it was well executed and good at what it is, which is a visceral action movie about a man who is very hard to kill, very good at killing, and weary with both. I would first suggest Straw Dogs for a film about a man pushed to viciousness, or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance for an exercise in misplaced hero worship, but this movie does well enough to rate close to these movies in whatever list might exist in the minds of those who care. You know who you are. Expand
  10. TonyM.
    Apr 6, 2006
    10
    Life is too short to have to explain this movie to people. If, however, you can appreciate that a movie can seemingly be about one thing (say, a random encounter with killers bringing a secret past to light) while really being about something much deeper (like whether or not violence can be expunged from the human soul or is passed on like a gentic flaw) then watch this movie. What Life is too short to have to explain this movie to people. If, however, you can appreciate that a movie can seemingly be about one thing (say, a random encounter with killers bringing a secret past to light) while really being about something much deeper (like whether or not violence can be expunged from the human soul or is passed on like a gentic flaw) then watch this movie. What you'll find is the best moive of 2006. Expand
  11. JohnBbarton
    May 18, 2006
    9
    I see a lot of films and don't really like that many. This was, in my opinion, the best film of 2005. My business partners both have good taste in film, and both loved the film also. After seeing so many extremely negative viewer ratings on Metacritic, (although there are also many very positive) I decided to put it to the test by having my son in law watch the film. He has theI see a lot of films and don't really like that many. This was, in my opinion, the best film of 2005. My business partners both have good taste in film, and both loved the film also. After seeing so many extremely negative viewer ratings on Metacritic, (although there are also many very positive) I decided to put it to the test by having my son in law watch the film. He has the absolutel worst taste in movie history. He loves everything really bad ( he saw40 First Dates 15 times!) and hates everything really good. ( walked out on Junebug and hated Matchpoint) I was very relieved to get his rating-he hated it! My film rating confidence is now fully restored. I'd like to hear what the amatuer reviewers who hated this film thought was a good film. War of the Worlds is probably on their top film list for 2005, and I'm sure they just love those fascinating and complex Steven Segal movies! Expand
  12. S.Packard
    May 5, 2006
    8
    Is Pulp Fiction, or Terminator great for it
  13. BernardoS.
    Jun 2, 2006
    10
    It´s just like Once Upon a time in the West but with a more realistic plot and great performances from all the cast (specially by Mr. Hurt). IMO this will be the movie of the decade.
  14. JenniferW
    Jan 22, 2008
    10
    As I get older, violence becomes less and less appealing to me. Unless it has depth and purpose. Seems almost creepy to say I loved this film, but I did, because of the complex yet simply presented undercurrents. Viggo is an amazing character. He does sincere, restrained and non-melodramatic angst unbelievably well. Bello is also great. And many of the script's lines--and especially As I get older, violence becomes less and less appealing to me. Unless it has depth and purpose. Seems almost creepy to say I loved this film, but I did, because of the complex yet simply presented undercurrents. Viggo is an amazing character. He does sincere, restrained and non-melodramatic angst unbelievably well. Bello is also great. And many of the script's lines--and especially the totally silent last scene--are still going through my head. This was a really brilliant film. Expand
  15. RodericR.
    Jul 9, 2009
    9
    A very solid movie. Worth watching, well made, and despite a few minor flaws, holds your attention and makes you think. What I will *NEVER* understand is the people who give movies, especially ones like this that got multiple perfect ratings and was objectively *at the very least* a decent movie, a 0. There is no way this movie gets less than a 5 if you are being objective. It would take A very solid movie. Worth watching, well made, and despite a few minor flaws, holds your attention and makes you think. What I will *NEVER* understand is the people who give movies, especially ones like this that got multiple perfect ratings and was objectively *at the very least* a decent movie, a 0. There is no way this movie gets less than a 5 if you are being objective. It would take a hauntingly bad movie to get a 2 or 3, a 0 would mean I would rather have been beat up or my wallet stolen than see it. Expand
  16. JaneA.
    Nov 19, 2005
    9
    A brilliiant depiction of the current socialised status that violent acts have in western communities. A triumph for Cronenberg and great work from his team.
  17. frankb
    Nov 24, 2005
    10
    I'm not sure the voters who rated this film poorly on this website paid much attention to any of the aspects that make this film a great one.
  18. jennyp.
    Nov 25, 2005
    10
    Such a good film. best gangster film ive seen in years. Cronenberg handled it well. casted very well. hope to see more of the same in the future.
  19. JimB.
    Nov 3, 2005
    10
    A hearty stew of intellegence and accessibility. "A History of Violence" has a new home on my favorite movies list.
  20. KebbieB.
    Oct 14, 2005
    7
    An interesting movie and well-acted but nothing particulalry creative. Also quite implausible when you consider a guy out of the killing business for over 20 years is so effective against professional killers. I do agree with the critics that William Hurt was particularly good in this movie.
  21. Rev.Rikard
    Nov 5, 2005
    9
    This movie is destined for Oscar nominations. The movie, in my opinion, offers the premise that the true history of violence lies somewhere deep in the human psyche. It is such a fundamental aspect of who we are that it is as basic to our existence as sex, and so universal to the human condition that even a family can "accept it," its consequences and move on. The movie ties violence This movie is destined for Oscar nominations. The movie, in my opinion, offers the premise that the true history of violence lies somewhere deep in the human psyche. It is such a fundamental aspect of who we are that it is as basic to our existence as sex, and so universal to the human condition that even a family can "accept it," its consequences and move on. The movie ties violence vividly to the instinctual reality of sexuality and its passion; especially as is revealed in the life of the teen son. Violence dwells within him but he chooses to remain a "virgin," not acting on its impulse for reasons of moral values and fear until "peer pressure" forces him to drop his defense mechanisms and beat the "alpha male" of at school to a pulp. Once he becomes Expand
  22. StephenF.
    Oct 16, 2005
    10
    Can You Ever Escape Your Past? By now, I would think that there is no need for a spoiler alert. In addition, the movie's title pretty much implies it's theme. David Cronenberg validates his stripes here by crafting an interesting, non-predictable and insightful tale about violence, finding peace, and escaping one's past. The story not so much has twists than an Can You Ever Escape Your Past? By now, I would think that there is no need for a spoiler alert. In addition, the movie's title pretty much implies it's theme. David Cronenberg validates his stripes here by crafting an interesting, non-predictable and insightful tale about violence, finding peace, and escaping one's past. The story not so much has twists than an unconventional, unexpected development of the events. It is captivating, with sporadic violence that thrills as well as turns your stomach. The only incongruity in the movie is the lightening speed killing machine Joey that Tom turns into. It is action that is more suitable to a James Bond or John Woo film than the drama/thriller here. Viggo Mortensen is nuanced, subtle and self-effacing as Tom/Joey, the man who finds peace and gentleness in his new life in a small, midwestern piece of Americana. Ed Harris and William Hurt gives interesting and substantial character performances as mobsters. The movie does not display pretensions. It tells an engrossing survival tale that ends with the shocking and seemingly impenetrable question of how does Tom escape his history of violence and recapture his peaceful life with his family? Expand
  23. danny
    Oct 17, 2005
    9
    I really dont understand the bad critism by some of the guys here . great movie.
  24. TracyB.
    Dec 21, 2005
    9
    Beautiful film- great acting by the leads.
  25. TalL.
    Dec 31, 2005
    10
    One of the best movies I've ever seen, up there with "Fargo" and "Eyes Wide Shut". It is graphically and shockingly violent, but it's a movie that puts you up against a mirror, and makes you think. It's a movie you remember. It's is a movie you come back to in your mind, wondering and obsessing how much of your reflection is driven by Cronenberg's crafty One of the best movies I've ever seen, up there with "Fargo" and "Eyes Wide Shut". It is graphically and shockingly violent, but it's a movie that puts you up against a mirror, and makes you think. It's a movie you remember. It's is a movie you come back to in your mind, wondering and obsessing how much of your reflection is driven by Cronenberg's crafty manipulation, and how much of it is really yours. Expand
  26. MattH.
    Oct 31, 2005
    10
    I'm not going to say that everyone who disliked this film didn't get it, but it's darn close and the majority of negative comments posted here reflect in the competence of the reviewer, not the quality of the film. Best movie of the year thus far, by far. A brilliant exploration of the perplexing relationship between human beings and their violent nature.
  27. Jay
    Sep 23, 2005
    10
    Masterful compelling, unpredictable, intelligent, funny and of course violent with a purpose, this masterpiece of an art film diguising as a mainstream modern western dtamatic thriller is by far one if not the best film of the year, Viggo, Maria, Ed Harris William Hur, Cronenberg and the rest of the cast and crew should be proud of such contribution and collaboration of producing great art.
  28. jaket.
    Sep 28, 2005
    10
    Great movie...I just saw Broken Flowers and was bored to death by Bill Murray blankly staring at a television set for two hours. That was a pointless piece of garbage. This film is Broken Flower's foil. Although the movie gets a bit strange midway, it all comes together in the end. I was suprised at how fast the plot was moving, but by the end of the movie, I realized that this was Great movie...I just saw Broken Flowers and was bored to death by Bill Murray blankly staring at a television set for two hours. That was a pointless piece of garbage. This film is Broken Flower's foil. Although the movie gets a bit strange midway, it all comes together in the end. I was suprised at how fast the plot was moving, but by the end of the movie, I realized that this was 97 minutes of pure entertainment. Superb acting (especially from William Hurt), and ingenious use of violence makes this film one of the year's best. If you are tired of Thumbsucker, Broken Flowers, Garden State and tired movies about middle aged men finding themselves in the midst of a midlige crisis, do yourself a favor and see this movie. Expand
  29. lucas.
    Sep 29, 2005
    10
    Beautiful, disturbing, insanely multilayered story, pierce right through the heart of the effect of violence (perpetrated or undergoed) on "normal" people. Never backs down for a moment, never wimps out, but the violence (and there's some very bloody moment) is not the "cool" variant seen in about one million movies since "Reservoir Dogs" - it's swift, merciless, scary. Beautiful, disturbing, insanely multilayered story, pierce right through the heart of the effect of violence (perpetrated or undergoed) on "normal" people. Never backs down for a moment, never wimps out, but the violence (and there's some very bloody moment) is not the "cool" variant seen in about one million movies since "Reservoir Dogs" - it's swift, merciless, scary. Outstanding performance from everyone involved (Cronenberg confirm his status as the best director of actors around), and I appreciated immensely the lack of any visual pretension - there's plenty of style here, but it's all about the substance. Don't dare to miss this one! Expand
  30. Cables
    Mar 18, 2006
    10
    I'm absolutely amazed at some of the comments that people are writing about this wonderful film. You thought it was too violent? Here's an idea... If you dont want to see a movie with graphic violence then maybe you shouldnt go see, "A History of Violence". Doesn't the title pretty much tell you what your getting into?
  31. RussellS.
    Mar 21, 2006
    8
    A blistering, Jekyll & Hyde self-examination into the duality and casual savagery that permeates every aspect of life in the good ole' USA. Not to make a mockery of our day-to-day, but bring into closer view those ties that bind can also explode in happenstance. The enemy and terror is not some turbaned, robed desert ghost, but we in our permissive tolerance of weapons and their use A blistering, Jekyll & Hyde self-examination into the duality and casual savagery that permeates every aspect of life in the good ole' USA. Not to make a mockery of our day-to-day, but bring into closer view those ties that bind can also explode in happenstance. The enemy and terror is not some turbaned, robed desert ghost, but we in our permissive tolerance of weapons and their use as the necessary tools of the layman. Expand
  32. J.Young
    Apr 28, 2006
    10
    I think A History of Violence will in time be recognized as the best film of 2005. For me, Spider was Cronenberg's first really adult movie, but with this film he has arrived as simply the best director working today; here he takes a comic book and manages to make a film that is somehow more topical than either Brokeback or Crash were. I left the theater haunted by this film in much I think A History of Violence will in time be recognized as the best film of 2005. For me, Spider was Cronenberg's first really adult movie, but with this film he has arrived as simply the best director working today; here he takes a comic book and manages to make a film that is somehow more topical than either Brokeback or Crash were. I left the theater haunted by this film in much the same way as Raging Bull had blown my mind 25 years ago (another masterpiece that didn't win the Oscar). Note, I have seen a lot of violent movies, but this film shocked me with a realism I didn't expect. What is more, the violence was not the point of the film either, despite the title. My wife thought the gangster characters were too over the top to believe; having lived in Philly and encountered real gangsters myself; I thought they were dead on. Expand
  33. WalterF.
    Dec 19, 2007
    10
    I hope to see more of Viggo. He is in my opinion ,a brilliant actor. His moves to save his life were spectacular and could pass for a modern day "Achilles".
  34. cl
    Nov 11, 2005
    10
    Disturbing, an exceptionally well written and well acted piece. The end is quite disconcerting. Although predictable; it was intensely portrayed - an excellent character study.
  35. VincentV.
    Nov 18, 2005
    9
    I wouldn't listen to those who give it horrid reviews. The truth is, this was a great, well written film.
  36. frankb.
    Nov 24, 2005
    10
    Excellent.
  37. PDignam
    Dec 29, 2005
    10
    Excellent movie.
  38. Aug 11, 2010
    10
    For as long as humanity has existed we have always been violent we may have not been created that way but somewhere down the line we found out that violence could save us or destroy us. It all depends on if we choose to use violence as a means of salvation or as a means of destruction in David Cronenberg's blunt yet very insightful film raises thought provoking and shocking questionsFor as long as humanity has existed we have always been violent we may have not been created that way but somewhere down the line we found out that violence could save us or destroy us. It all depends on if we choose to use violence as a means of salvation or as a means of destruction in David Cronenberg's blunt yet very insightful film raises thought provoking and shocking questions about the true nature of violence and how it can affect some and change others. how sometimes a single act of violence can make all the difference, how it can change who you are and turn you into a person you told yourself you would never be. This is the story of one man, the story of one family and the story of "A History of Violence". David Cronenberg's violent, brutal and extremely intelligent look into the nature of violence is nothing short of insightful, moving and at times shocking, shocking because it delivers a story so true and unflinchingly honest that turning away from the screen, turning away from the story would be near impossible. It is such a powerful and thought provoking film that just leaps out at you at every turn it shocks and amazes with its brutal violence, it's emotional and heartfelt story of family angst and how the past can sometimes catch up with you. Cronenberg know for his gory horror films and wigged out thrillers has created a stable film of right and wrong, good and evil, life and death. Cronenberg's "A History of Violence" is not a film for the squeamish or the faint of heart what it is a powerful film experiences that leaves you with a haunted and disturbed feeling making you wish you had not seen the film and at the same also making you feel glad you did. This film calls you to watch a film that needs you to watch it to see the darkness of one manâ Expand
  39. Aug 21, 2010
    9
    Um ato de brutalidade pode desencadear inumeros outros, virar de cabeca para baixo uma comunidade tranquila, desestruturar uma familia inteira, tornar alguem irreconhecivel para si proprio e pelos seus entes queridos, enfim, estilhacar o american way of life. O impeto de violencia existe em nossos genes, como em qualquer outro animal â
  40. Jul 15, 2011
    8
    The Cronenberg trademark gore SFX are here, but so too is a great drama, characters and a story. If it kicks off feeling a little too made-for-TV (a little too saccharine on the domestic bliss angle?) , it pays off later in the adrenaline rush of sudden, brutal realistic violence.
  41. Oct 22, 2010
    10
    Exciting, challenging, brilliant. A film that starts in on you hard--but slowly--giving you just one long chance (a monumental single shot sequence) to get up to speed and recognize that if you ever think the story is uneven, implausible, it's because YOU aren't getting it. It's a parable, a morality play, a electrically-fast hand-to-hand combat symphony, but above all, it's aboutExciting, challenging, brilliant. A film that starts in on you hard--but slowly--giving you just one long chance (a monumental single shot sequence) to get up to speed and recognize that if you ever think the story is uneven, implausible, it's because YOU aren't getting it. It's a parable, a morality play, a electrically-fast hand-to-hand combat symphony, but above all, it's about people's wishes to be good and peaceful until they are threatened, when they wish for a savior to step between their lives and the paradox of unsympathetic evil that cannot be dissuaded. If you have ever been in that situation, you know--but may not accept, or like yourself for it--you know that you would destroy that man that threatens you. But then, how to live? Many of us chose to live by avoiding the problem (and who wants to have it?) and therefore letting others destroy for us. This film reminds us: those others that destroy for us have faced the same choice, and come to a different conclusion: they will not avoid. Are they worse for helping us live? Have you watched bullying and done nothing? Have you not been involved? Have you risked yourself for me? If not, don't condemn me for helping you live. Expand
  42. j30
    Nov 15, 2011
    9
    Fantastic performances all around, Viggo Mortensen is one of the best actors around today. There's no corny one-liners from the bad guys, it's all raw and violent. There's almost something poetic about it.
  43. Dec 16, 2011
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This movie is incredible. The sudden bursts of extreme violence, the acting, the raw sex scenes, everything is top notch. The story amazes, and the ending at the dinner table is one of the most tense and thrilling scenes I've ever witnessed. Expand
  44. Aug 25, 2014
    8
    A History of Violence is raw and compelling. This film will make you question everything, absolutely everything. And for good reason. By the end, you'll understand why Viggo Mortensen is much more than Aragorn.
  45. Jul 25, 2014
    8
    This one is definitely a slow burner, but the pay off is great and as a film, it is certainly something to marvel at. Firstly, the direction from David Cronenberg is great and as this was the first film of his I have seen, it certainly makes me want to continue going through his filmography. In terms of acting, Viggo Mortensen is great, as are Ed Harris and Maria Bello. The only actorThis one is definitely a slow burner, but the pay off is great and as a film, it is certainly something to marvel at. Firstly, the direction from David Cronenberg is great and as this was the first film of his I have seen, it certainly makes me want to continue going through his filmography. In terms of acting, Viggo Mortensen is great, as are Ed Harris and Maria Bello. The only actor whose performance was iffy was Ashton Holmes as Mortensen's son. He struggles at times, especially when on screen with heavyweights like Mortensen and Harris. In addition, the film is filled with tension. The film may be a slow burner and all, but once it kicks into high gear, things are very interesting thanks to these very well developed characters and their interpersonal relationships. While at the end of the day, this is a movie, everything felt very authentic and you really believed these people were who they said they were thanks to great writing, acting, and direction. The film has a smalltown feel as well, which is awesome. The violence is a tad graphic, but it never feels like it is too much, which is also a big plus for me personally. Overall, A History of Violence is a good film that really highlights what a thriller should be like. Expand
  46. Jul 22, 2013
    9
    This is a top-notch film. It is paced very well and the story is great. I was continuously waiting for the next development to find exactly what was going on. Combine all of this with great acting and you've got something really good.
  47. Mar 29, 2014
    8
    While exploring richly thematic ideas of harm, family, and the troubled past, David Cronenberg and the case of "A History Of Violence" ultimately craft a fantastically thought-provoking and thoroughly intriguing thriller.
  48. Jun 14, 2015
    8
    David Cronenberg, the director of such films as Dead Ringers and The Fly, has a reputation for being a little "out there." It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn that his latest, A History of Violence, is almost mainstream in the way it tells a linear story and curtails freaky images. The movie, which is at its heart a meditation upon the meaning of identity, is not perfect.David Cronenberg, the director of such films as Dead Ringers and The Fly, has a reputation for being a little "out there." It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn that his latest, A History of Violence, is almost mainstream in the way it tells a linear story and curtails freaky images. The movie, which is at its heart a meditation upon the meaning of identity, is not perfect. Although there's little wrong with the first two-thirds, A History of Violence slides onto a tangential path during its final act, and this misstep reduces the production's overall effectiveness. Nevertheless, there's a lot to admire here.

    Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a model citizen, ideal father, and loving husband. His two children, Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Hayes), trust him, and his wife, Edie (Maria Bello), adores him. The fun hasn't gone out of their marriage, as Edie proves when she dons a cheerleader outfit to seduce Tom. One evening, while Tom is working behind the counter at his diner, two thugs come in with rape and robbery on their minds. After a brief struggle, Tom gets the gun away from one of the robbers and uses it to dispatch both intruders. He is hailed as a hero, and there is blanket news coverage. And it's on TV that Carl Fogaty (Ed Harris) sees a familiar face. Based on the evidence of his eyes, the man who calls himself Tom Stall is actually Joey Cusack, an ex-killer from Philadelphia. So, with henchmen in tow, Carl heads for the town of Millbrook, Indiana.

    Central to the film's success is the uncertainty about Tom's past. When confronted by Carl, he not only denies being Joey, but claims to have never been in Philadelphia. Neither the script nor Viggo Mortensen gives us a clue whether Tom and Joey are the same person, or whether Tom is the victim of an unfortunate coincidence. As the Stalls must deal with the new, dangerous presence in their life, they must grapple with questions of identity. What makes each of us who we are? Is it our face, or something deep within?

    Cronenberg weaves a spell for over an hour, but he proves unable to sustain it for the entire running length. The need for a conventional resolution pulls him off course during the movie's final third. Some of the most interesting characters and relationships are taken off the screen to allow A History of Violence to move in a different direction. Since the screenplay is based on a graphic novel, I suspect that the filmmakers may have had little choice about the trajectory.

    The children have their own mini-stories as well. Sarah is afraid of monsters in her closet, and is comforted by her father (who says there are no monsters) and brother (who asserts that monsters are afraid of the light). Meanwhile, Jack has problems with a school bully. At first, he backs down but, in the wake of his father's "heroic" actions at the diner, he decides that confrontation may be the better course of action. Has the wimp become an avenger? Once again, it comes back to a question of identity.

    Mortensen finds the perfect pitch for Tom. In this performance, we see a good, simple man who cares about his family and community. But we also see hints of something else - a darker, more decisive personality. During the film's first hour, I changed my mind several times about whether Tom was Joey, and a lot of that had to do with the way Mortensen plays the role. Opposite him, Maria Bello is a firecracker, the kind of actress who draws the camera's attention. Not since The Cooler has she been given this juicy and demanding a part. And, as the villain, Ed Harris is nothing short of despicable.

    A History of Violence can be seen as a thriller, but in many ways it works best during its quieter moments. As the title indicates, this is not a sedate art film. It contains moments of sharp, vicious mayhem and there is a body count. But the strength of the movie lies in its psychological complexity and depth. And, while I wasn't enthused about where A History of Violence takes the audience during its waning moments, it at least offers a sense of closure, and, in the final scene, hope. Left unresolved, however, is the perhaps unanswerable question about whether the nature and identity of a person are fixed or fluid.
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Metascore
81

Universal acclaim - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. 90
    Cronenberg holds up a mirror, but he leaves it up to us to recoil at what we see.
  2. Clever and fast-paced thriller.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    70
    Lack of depth, complexity or strangeness make this a relatively routine entry for the director.