A History of Violence

User Score
7.4

Generally favorable reviews- based on 772 Ratings

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User Reviews

  1. MikeL.
    Nov 11, 2005
    10
    C'mon people - METAPHOR! The look of the film, the performances and the story play with/twist standardized forms from the inside out. Its supposed to feel awkward and stilted, that's the idea! The film can feel uncomfortable to watch cuz it mirrors our own superficial, hair's breadth distance from a history of the worst kind of violence. From apehood to rape to the miriad C'mon people - METAPHOR! The look of the film, the performances and the story play with/twist standardized forms from the inside out. Its supposed to feel awkward and stilted, that's the idea! The film can feel uncomfortable to watch cuz it mirrors our own superficial, hair's breadth distance from a history of the worst kind of violence. From apehood to rape to the miriad abuses of power, the human race is still in its infancy and we're still dealing with all this stuff. This movie sheds a light on a culture which was to a large degree born of violence. Its a difficult film - sometimes difficult films are good - great in this case. Expand
  2. Jan 3, 2011
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This movie is phenomenal: from the long take, no cutting opening to the incongruity of Ed Harris' car in the small town to Viggo experiencing a rebirth after having killed his brother, to the brilliant and wordless scene that closes the film, this movie is almost virtuoso beyond belief. This film is just about perfect. Expand
  3. Nov 8, 2012
    10
    It is very rare that a film is so compelling that it keeps my eyes absolutely glued to the screen from its opening sequence to its final frame. Surely, A History of Violence is one of the great films of the decade.
  4. AAW
    Oct 4, 2005
    10
    Best movie of the year. Extraordinary. Go now. Do not wait.
  5. Loreli
    Oct 4, 2005
    10
    Superb movie. Acting is excellent. May catch mainstream audiences, who exclusively want entertainment, off guard. They will find themselves not only entertained but also pondering the movie and its questioning of violence and identify for days afterwards. Cronenberg has taken the age-old themes of the classic genres of the Western and revenge bloodfests and imbued it with a provocative Superb movie. Acting is excellent. May catch mainstream audiences, who exclusively want entertainment, off guard. They will find themselves not only entertained but also pondering the movie and its questioning of violence and identify for days afterwards. Cronenberg has taken the age-old themes of the classic genres of the Western and revenge bloodfests and imbued it with a provocative point of view. Is violence an ugly but necessary means to an end if your intention is noble, or is it always just ugly and self-defeating? Does the moral cost of violence negate its use in all circumstances? Can one ever escape your past no matter how much you have managed to reinvent yourself? Although he has successfully defeated all threats to his idyllic life, has Tom Stall destroyed ultimately destroyed that life in his attempts to keep it? Is he any longer "the best man" his wife has ever known? These are just some of the questions I came away with after viewing the movie, and there aren't too many other films I have seen lately that have done that for me. Expand
  6. RachelH.
    Oct 9, 2005
    8
    Great movie overall. The only thing I really questioned is the ending.....the plot twists were excellent, they kept you wondering the whole way through. Especially good performance by Mortensen.
  7. AlexE.
    Oct 1, 2005
    10
    You don't realize just how much this movie has affected you until it is over, the credits are rolling, Howard Shore's subtly haunting score is playing softly, and you realize that for the first time in a long time, a movie has caused you to feel physically and emotionally uncomfortable. The final scene in this film is heartbreaking, chilling, and incredibly unsettling. I will You don't realize just how much this movie has affected you until it is over, the credits are rolling, Howard Shore's subtly haunting score is playing softly, and you realize that for the first time in a long time, a movie has caused you to feel physically and emotionally uncomfortable. The final scene in this film is heartbreaking, chilling, and incredibly unsettling. I will not tell you exactly what it contains, but I will say that it is no sort of "twist" ending and it is almost entirely silent. That one scene is enough to put this movie well onto my "Best of 2005" list, but the rest is what really cements its place. Cronenberg plays the audience like a fiddle for an hour and a half, taking our desensitization against violence on film and throwing it in our faces so that we can no longer look away. The experience of watching this in a crowded theater is exhilarating, as it seems the entire audience is sharing something very, very powerful. Great work from Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, and Ed Harris. See this if you have wondered where serious mainstream cinema has been hiding. Expand
  8. alicew.
    Oct 24, 2005
    9
    one of the best movies i have seen in a long time.
  9. MikeG.
    Oct 4, 2005
    9
    From the eerily silent first moments of the film, Cronenberg captures mood and never lets go of it throughout. A History of Violence might have been a mediocre gore fest in the hands of a lesser director, but Cronenberg keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film and leaves you wondering about not only these characters and this story, but about the world we live in. From the eerily silent first moments of the film, Cronenberg captures mood and never lets go of it throughout. A History of Violence might have been a mediocre gore fest in the hands of a lesser director, but Cronenberg keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire film and leaves you wondering about not only these characters and this story, but about the world we live in. Viggo Mortensen slips marvelously into the lead role, capturing the duality of his life perfectly: there is an anonimity in his character that's delivered adroitly. There are some small holes in the plot, but you won't find yourself thinking about them until long after you leave the theater. William Hurt's performance is a little weird - is his character supposed to be funny? - but this is quibbling. A History of Violence is a movie worth seeing. Expand
  10. randyw.
    Oct 6, 2005
    9
    A brilliant movie; one that makes the intelligent viewer question the place and role of violence in American society, regardless of circumstance. One can see the master touch of a director whose Canadian viewpoint and perspective on American life reveals much about the dark underside of that society.
  11. LingX.
    Oct 6, 2005
    7
    A walking teapot that boiled and went on a killing spree. that's just about it.
  12. RJSamson
    Oct 7, 2005
    10
    It's a movie about character. If someone else directed it, it may turn commercial. But Cronenberg's style has definitely drawn sincere realism to one of the best movies of the year. Subtle yet strong. What more can I say?
  13. DeWayneP.
    Sep 25, 2005
    9
    Excellent film. May not be everyone's cup of tea, because it's talks about our relationship to violence and how it reflects who we are as a society. Seeing how seductive our temptations are towards violence and how we use it for sexual fulfilment, revenge, as well as how we decide right (whistle-blower) from wrong (stool pigeon), or is it the other way around? One should Excellent film. May not be everyone's cup of tea, because it's talks about our relationship to violence and how it reflects who we are as a society. Seeing how seductive our temptations are towards violence and how we use it for sexual fulfilment, revenge, as well as how we decide right (whistle-blower) from wrong (stool pigeon), or is it the other way around? One should approach this film not as an entertaining enterprise i.e. a Mel Gibson film, but as a film to give us pause and reflection as to who we are and have been. And it's okay, we can be reflective and critical and still be American...really...It's only a movie. Expand
  14. SebaD.
    Feb 1, 2006
    7
    well done Maria Bello, beautiful performance you did. Now tell me if there s someone who really believe that Mortenesen was like "the carmelita descalza"?
  15. Jared
    Feb 20, 2006
    10
    I'm sorry, if you think this movie is predictable and boring, then you weren't watching the same movie as I was. What I saw was a brilliant, haunting, shocking portrayal of the American Dream being ripped apart by violence and lies, leaving behind the ugly truth that can seeth beneath such "perfect" families. The belief that we can run from who we are and change without regard I'm sorry, if you think this movie is predictable and boring, then you weren't watching the same movie as I was. What I saw was a brilliant, haunting, shocking portrayal of the American Dream being ripped apart by violence and lies, leaving behind the ugly truth that can seeth beneath such "perfect" families. The belief that we can run from who we are and change without regard for our past is brutally ripped apart. What we are left with is a family who has to pick up the pieces and try to deal with the horrible truth revealed to them. Expand
  16. Sam
    Apr 7, 2006
    9
    I thought this movie was excellently acted, directed and shot. Sure, if you just want mindless violence or cheap gags then steer clear. But if you're prepared to actually invest yourself in and engage with a film, pay attention off your own back instead of expecting it to do all the work for you then you'll find some amazing themes and thought-provoking angles. There are violent I thought this movie was excellently acted, directed and shot. Sure, if you just want mindless violence or cheap gags then steer clear. But if you're prepared to actually invest yourself in and engage with a film, pay attention off your own back instead of expecting it to do all the work for you then you'll find some amazing themes and thought-provoking angles. There are violent scenes in the film, but they serve a purpose rather than being arbitrary or superfluous, like in so many films. Expand
  17. JonD.
    May 6, 2006
    8
    This movie was really really good. It was very different which is probably why so many people give it such a low rating. its either a love it or hate it movie. Let me say one thing GRAPHIC NOVEL. The violence is over the top because of this have you seen other graphic novel movies? Sin City perhaps or maybe Road To Perdistion ... the violence is over the top for a reason. That is why some This movie was really really good. It was very different which is probably why so many people give it such a low rating. its either a love it or hate it movie. Let me say one thing GRAPHIC NOVEL. The violence is over the top because of this have you seen other graphic novel movies? Sin City perhaps or maybe Road To Perdistion ... the violence is over the top for a reason. That is why some people dont understand it, because they dont know that its a graphic novel. The story is a little different as well and it probly wouldnt happen in real life but its not supposed to. Overall a very well done movie and most people will either love it or hate it. Expand
  18. MichaelK.
    Jun 10, 2006
    10
    From what I understand, this movie was based on a graphic novel so it definitely has that comic book feel. Watch with an open mind and don't search for holes and you'll enjoy the film. I found myself caring about each character and at times I found the movie very tense. Be warned, both the sex and the violence are at 100%.
  19. PatT.
    Mar 21, 2007
    10
    I am generally appalled by the gratuitous violence of so many films these days, yet still I found myself drawn to the flawed protagonist. In spite of its brute force, this is a nuanced movie, with scenes of extreme violence juxtaposed with domestic scenes of calm beauty. Even the brass score adds energy and tension, and the ending was a nice touch as well, with its lack of resolution but I am generally appalled by the gratuitous violence of so many films these days, yet still I found myself drawn to the flawed protagonist. In spite of its brute force, this is a nuanced movie, with scenes of extreme violence juxtaposed with domestic scenes of calm beauty. Even the brass score adds energy and tension, and the ending was a nice touch as well, with its lack of resolution but hint of hope. Ultimately, this film appeals to that very basic human satisfaction of seeing the bullies, mobsters, and thrill killers of the world get their due at the hands of the underdog. Expand
  20. jaymorris
    Apr 16, 2008
    10
    The best film of the year, hands down. David Cronenberg's enthralling meditation on violence, and the duality of man's nature and his capacity to change, recalls Anthony Mann's Bend of the River. Mr. Cronenberg has found his James Stewart in Viggo Mortensen; his performance is absolutely mesmerizing. One hopes that this masterpiece launches more teamings of this supremelyThe best film of the year, hands down. David Cronenberg's enthralling meditation on violence, and the duality of man's nature and his capacity to change, recalls Anthony Mann's Bend of the River. Mr. Cronenberg has found his James Stewart in Viggo Mortensen; his performance is absolutely mesmerizing. One hopes that this masterpiece launches more teamings of this supremely accomplished director and his new leading man. Expand
  21. SeamusS
    Nov 15, 2005
    10
    Brilliant, One of cronenburgs best.
  22. BitBurn
    Oct 11, 2005
    9
    That one really caught me by surprise. Very intense, raw. Awesome screenplay. Perhaps not for everyone but I loved it.
  23. megw.
    Oct 10, 2005
    8
    Liked it rather a lot, almost strangely so. Saw it last night and still musing on it. Very violent bloodshed interspersed with serious erotic moments, gorey but not mindlessly so. A couple of laughs, but definitely not a comedy-no idea where people got that impression- and not one to take the kids to, least not smallish kids, older teens maybe, if you're comfortable with them viewing Liked it rather a lot, almost strangely so. Saw it last night and still musing on it. Very violent bloodshed interspersed with serious erotic moments, gorey but not mindlessly so. A couple of laughs, but definitely not a comedy-no idea where people got that impression- and not one to take the kids to, least not smallish kids, older teens maybe, if you're comfortable with them viewing blood and sex. Not terribly predictable, enough twists and turns, done without beating one over the head with some moral perspective, which is refreshing. Worthwhile, different, not for the squeamish or easily offended. Expand
  24. SuzieH.
    Nov 1, 2005
    9
    Loved it! Very graphic violence & sex.
  25. JayM.
    Oct 1, 2005
    9
    Cronenberg's most complete and successful film to date, fabulous performances by the whole cast, wow wauw! So not a Hollywood production, this is a @#$! real movie!
  26. leah
    Nov 20, 2005
    10
    One of the best movies of the year, so darkly funny that i found myself to be the only one in the theater laughing! Cronenburg has not dropped the ball yet in his lengthy career.
  27. Jonzi
    Oct 12, 2005
    8
    To appreciate this movie you must view it as part of the revisionist western genre like Peckipah or the "urban revenge" movies like Dirty Harry. Lacking in humanity, cold and certainly doing nothing for Cronenbergs feminism credentials - I loved it!
  28. MarkB.
    Oct 15, 2005
    7
    Despite the cold, clinical feel that David Cronenberg often brings to his horror and other films (and a similar reputation that he seems to enjoy cultivating in print), his best work includes a large dose of humanity to drive home his rather morose scientific themes and obsessions in ways that his more distanced work (Dead Ringers, eXistenZ, Spider) can't always do no matter how Despite the cold, clinical feel that David Cronenberg often brings to his horror and other films (and a similar reputation that he seems to enjoy cultivating in print), his best work includes a large dose of humanity to drive home his rather morose scientific themes and obsessions in ways that his more distanced work (Dead Ringers, eXistenZ, Spider) can't always do no matter how creepily fascinating or technically accomplished it may be. His adaptation of Stephen King's The Dead Zone has as much loss, poignancy and heartbreak as any movie made in the last 25 years; his all-time masterpiece The Fly wouldn't be nearly so resonant if it weren't as much a tragic romance as a gross-out horror classic. Not surprisingly, these two were his biggest box-office hits ever, and A History of Violence, which effectively jettisons the supernatural or science fiction elements while still dealing with many of Cronenberg's pet concerns, looks to join them. Small town family man and business owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) gets into more than he expected when he violently but understandably derails an attempt to rob his diner; nationwide notoriety, reporters and gangsters appear to threaten his perfect family life and maybe expose some less-than-savory truths that he'd vastly prefer remain submerged. (It's tough to discuss a film like this without tiptoeing into spoiler territory; on the other hand, if you've seen the trailer, you can probably guess the difference between a potential full-length movie and a 15-minute short subject.) Much of Cronenberg's previous work has dealt with, as a major theme or a subplot, parasitic invasive physical or mental forces that take over, dominate and often destroy their hosts; in Tom's case, said unwelcome elements could have been there all along, which is why I was less moved by his situation than that of his gentle, sensitive high-school son Jack (affectingly played by Ashton Holmes), who may or may not have inherited certain violent tendencies that he neither chose nor wants to have. Despite gripping (and often funny) supporting performances from Ed Harris, William Hurt, Maria Bello as Tom's wife (three cheers and an 'amen' for actresses who don't place any limitations on the sexual demands of the scripts they want to do!) and especially Mortensen himself, in a fascinating, career-redefining, coiled-spring performance that lends real ambiguity and danger to even the movie's early scenes, this effort is perhaps too linear and straightforward to fully engage Cronenberg's most devoted followers or to inspire repeat viewings as readily as his best mainstream work. But there's still plenty to absorb, appreciate and admire, although I have a feeling that the biggest discussion and debate--both among the film's surviving principal characters AND its audience--will inevitably occur after the closing credits have rolled. And it's impossible for me NOT to respect a film that questions the basic ethos of the action-film resumes of Charles Bronson, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme and pre-1980 Clint Eastwood by asking whether the so-called heroes of these films prevail because they have the forces of good and right on their side--or maybe because they're just a little bit better and more skillful at marshalling the forces of bad and wrong? Expand
  29. mitchellm
    Oct 18, 2005
    10
    Wow, these last low reveiws show us how people don't know what a goood movie is, they'd rather see something like "the fog" or some nonesense like that. and say its " the best movie ever!", thes people need to be shown what a real masterpeice looks like, and this is one of them.
  30. ChadS.
    Oct 20, 2005
    9
    I'll be the cheerleader, and next time, you be the man with a violent past. That scene on the stairwell is interesting because we've already seen the couple engage in role-playing when they have sex. Edie (Maria Bello) is like the Lorraine Bracco character in "Good Fellas" who admits to being turned-on when Henry (Ray Liotta) tells her to hide the gun. There's a darkness in I'll be the cheerleader, and next time, you be the man with a violent past. That scene on the stairwell is interesting because we've already seen the couple engage in role-playing when they have sex. Edie (Maria Bello) is like the Lorraine Bracco character in "Good Fellas" who admits to being turned-on when Henry (Ray Liotta) tells her to hide the gun. There's a darkness in Edie, too. If there's a flaw to "A History of Violence", it's the violence inflicted by Tom (Viggo Mortensen) on his victims because the rest of the film belies any graphic novel connection. Like fellow indie-director Richard Linklater, David Cronenberg mainstreams himself with dignity and class. Expand
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.