A History of Violence boasts intrigue, realism and strong performances from Mortenson, Bello

Canadian director David Cronenberg’s latest film, A History of Violence, is a creepy, psychological and brutally honest tale of hurt, fear and innocence lost. Its dark and deeply woven plot contributes heavily to the story’s suspense.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a family man living the American dream with his wife Edie (Maria Bello) and two children in Millbrook, Indiana.

His perfect life is shattered when two men attempt to rob his diner. Tom responds viciously, killing both men in the blink of an eye. In doing this, he saves his fellow employees and walks away with hero status.

Tom’s publicity reaches new heights which, in turn, brings him in contact with the dark and mysterious character of Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris).

We get the impression that Fogarty is someone that Tom knew in the past. Fogarty even starts calling Tom another name, but Tom appears dumbfounded that anyone would call him by a name other than Tom.

Tom is then faced with the possibility that he may be someone entirely different from just a small-town Indiana boy.

From there, the movie becomes a twisted story that revolves around the question of Tom’s past. The twists and turns are numerous, and I don’t want to spoil any of them.

The film features great acting by both Mortensen and Bello, whose characters’ love is tested by lies and deception. Edie is torn apart by her love for her husband and also by her quest for the truth. Bello has mastered the role of a tormented lover. Some of her other great performances are in The Cooler and Autofocus.

Mortensen delivers a very real, raw, convincing performance as a troubled man searching for his place. After his role as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mortensen shows off his versatility, proving that he is a great actor.

Violence is definitely not a plot-driven movie, and there were times when I questioned the direction in which it was heading. It is really the characters’ job to move things along. The film is not so much about the storyline as it is about how the characters fit into it and why they are the way they are.

The film takes an interesting look at violence and has had me thinking about it for quite some time. We see how society has a need and hunger for “good violence,” but very quickly, it can change into “bad violence.”

Surroundings shape and mold situations that allow even the most heinous of crimes to be permissible; yet, under other circumstances, the same act can be looked upon as a terrible murder.

I do not recommend this film to the faint of heart, as it is very real and provocative and does not sugar-coat anything. However, the intense, graphic realism creates an intensely gripping film for those who can bear it.

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