Film Review: A History of Violence

by Nate Taylor

A small town shop owner kills two would-be robber/murderers. The problem is, he kills them a little too easily. Almost naturally.

This little morsel of cinema was one of the most interesting films I've seen this year. I'll be honest, it was slow. SLOW. The upside was, it was interesting and involved in its slowness. Most of the people whose attention spans were formed by MTV would call it boring, but I like to actually involve myself in the movies I watch. Thus, I found it interesting. The characters were captivating in their ordinary yet touchingly real lives, and the film's glacial pace only served to intensify its impact. The opening scene, in fact, starts out so agonizingly slow that the tempo can only build from there, and build it does.
The violence, instead of saturating the movie, is sparse yet horrifyingly graphic. Collective gasps were rended from the audience at each point the director intended. I admit that this was only my second Cronenberg movie and, despite heavy desensitization over the years, I was actually unprepared for the disturbing nature of one of the sex scenes. Apart from this, I would call the movie a triumph over Hollywood cliches. Yes, you've seen the plot before (or at least I feel like I have), but you haven't seen it like this. It's subtle. It's powerful. It was a joy to behold.
Viggo Mortensen was his usual quiet self which suited his character perfectly, Maria Bello offered some eccentric emotional merry-go-rounds, Ed Harris was good while he was there (which wasn't long), but William Hurt was the icing on the cake. This man was superb.

So here are my answers:
Repeat viewings? No. While I'm sure there's more to catch the second time around, it was a little too intense. I can wait until video.
Bring a date? Well, some people enjoy violence in their date movies, but I wouldn't recommend it.

And now, the Simile Scale:
Violence: Like "Faces of Death" on Prozac. Mellow, but shocking.
Sex: As tender and loving as a birthday beating.
Humor: Like a dark chocolate bar in a sorority. It happens, but it doesn't last long.
Language: Like a special forces unit using laser targeting to guide in precision F-bombs.