One rarely finishes watching a movie and is left with no clear answer, not having been pandered to, to contemplate serious questions. David Cronenbergs "A History of Violence" is just such a rare movie, and it is undoubtedly one of the best movies to come along this year.
"Violence" begins benignly, introducing us to Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a down-home completely average middle-American family man.
He is happily married with two great kids, and is the owner of a perfectly quaint small town diner. Life progresses for a while slowly and simply, before a series of events is thrown into action that changes the course of Toms life, as well of the course of the film, entirely.
It all begins when two utterly evil men show up in Toms diner with an intent to rob, kill and harm whomever they have to, and in an Jason Bourne-esque show of ability, Tom takes them both out and saves the day.
This surprisingly violent act elevates Tom to hero status, leading even to his picture and story on the news. For a short time everything is well and good again, until more eerily menacing men start to show up, insistently badgering Tom, saying that they know him, and that his name is really Joey.
To continue with plot details is to jeopardize the fantastically demented twists and turns of the rest of the film. The acting is fantastic. Mortensen shows us that he can easily hold his own as a leading man in the wide world outside of Middle Earth.
The consistently underappreciated Maria Bello also comes through in the engagingly meaty role of Toms wife. Ed Harris plays his usual game and chews his way through every scene given to him as the mysterious man who may or may not be from Toms past.
Even relative newcomer Aston Holmes pulls through as Toms son, struggling with the idea of his fathers violence. The direction is superbly understated, letting the terrific performances carry the film. Ultimately, "A History of Violence" is about exactly that, violence; the implications of violence, the complicated reasons behind acts of violence, and the inner struggle that goes on in the attempt to justify violent acts.
David Cronenberg is a master of horror and gore and although this is not a horror movie, he spares nothing in the way of the graphic, gruesome carnage left over after something particularly violent has occurred.
This is his directorial way of leaving the viewer feeling a small part of the inconsistent emotions experienced by the characters in the film. "A History of Violence" leaves you with questions, not questions about the film, but questions about yourself.