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Cronenberg's A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE screens! Glowing review here!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review that makes me happy in pants. Could this film really be sicker than THE FLY? I was looking forward to this newest from David Cronenberg, but now, after reading the below review, I'm damn near giddy. Sounds like a great showcase of classic Cronenberg. Enjoy, squirts... some slight spoilers, but nothing that'll give away the big twists promised by this reviewer.

Hello Harry and crew. Long time reader, first time poster. I had the privilege of seeing the new David Cronenberg film 'A History of Violence' Wednesday night at a test screening in Pasadena. And let me be the first to tell you that this is a very fine addition into the catalog of Mr. Cronenberg. This was a very strange experience right from the start complete with a sighting of David Cronenberg himself and a disrobing transvestite in the theatre...but that's a story for another website.

This was quite a different movie for David Cronenberg, besides the returning crew of regulars...Howard Shore, Carol Spier and Peter Suschitzky. It almost seems that he could possibly break into the mainstream with this film, for the audience seemed to really enjoy this twisted tale of revenge and redemption. Lots of cheers and even several laughs, which is not what I was expecting at all. Having read the graphic novel beforehand I wasn't sure how this would transfer into his stylings, but it was filled with plenty of the little things that makes his movies stand out as they do. I was very happy to see a return to the uber gruesome and the super sexual, but I do love his toned down work as well.

The movie opens with the introduction of two men having a discussion as they are leaving a hotel room. The dialog between the two characters almost played out more like a David Lynch film then a Cronenberg one. Very quirky and sort of funny, but that soon turns ugly when you find out what happened to the employees of the hotel. This scene establishes violence as the main tone of the film, and it rears its ugly head at every chance it gets.

Next introduces the characters of Tom Stall and his family. They live in a nice small town where everyone knows everyone else, and everyone knows everyone else's business. Tom is played by Viggo Mortenson and his wife Edie is played by the very sexy Maria Bello. They have two children, a teenage son and a very young daughter (I have forgotten their names and who played them). Tom is the owner of Stalls diner, which makes him a figure of society in that small town. The relationship between Tom and Edie seems very close, like they are high school sweethearts, but we find out later that Tom moved to town once he was a little older, with no mention of his past or where he has come from. These two have some pretty explicit cronenbergesque scenes together, which Im hoping will not be cut out of the theatrical release, but Im pretty sure it would deem a NC-17 rating.

Things soon turn a rye when the two thugs from the beginning of the film stroll into the diner late one night. They start screaming for coffee after Tom tells them that they have closed for the night. Things turn very ugly when one of them locks the front door and grabs a waitress and puts a gun to her head. Tom bursts on to the scene and eventually kills both crooks. This scene made me giddy as a school boy to see David Cronenberg return to his horrific style of violence. There are scenes in this movie that rival 'The Fly' as far as grotesqueness goes.

Tom becomes a savior in everyone's eyes as a result of his heroic actions. Business starts booming and the reporters start looking for their exclusive interview with the reluctant hero. But with the fame comes certain people prying into his past. In walks three mobster looking guys, one of them being the sinister ? played by Ed Harris in a rarely seen bad guy role. Ed is great in this role, complete with a nasty scar and a half dead eye. Ed plays a made gangster looking for an old enemy, who used barbed wire to attempt to rip out his eye. He is convinced that Tom is this man, named Joey Cusak. I don't want to spoil anything else to come except to tell you that the movie takes some twists and turns that would turn any suburban dream into a nightmare.

In the end Tom finds himself up against Richie, the head of that mafia family, played by the fantastic William Hurt in another rare bad guy role. I won't say anything that happens here except that this is the funniest role I have ever seen William Hurt play, but he is also a sinister force not to be reckoned with. The meeting between the two is very short, but not uneventful. The ending seemed a little rushed and I would have liked to have seen a little back story on Viggo and Williams characters (like it is in the graphic novel), but I have no qualms with the way the ending was handled. Things get resolved but it is in no ways a happy ending.

Fear and Violence play as one of the main characters in the film. Almost every scene either has a form of violence or a threat of one coming on, including the sex scenes. This is a great character study on how people deal with threats and rise up and stand up for themselves. The underlying Cronenberg themes are very evident and a welcoming treat for a somewhat cliché story. I was thoroughly impressed by the film and hope they don't change a thing. The music was great and minimal, as most Howard Shore soundtracks for Cronenberg films are, unless there were parts not finished for this test screening. Great cinematography by Peter Suschitzky and fantastic production by Carol Spier. This is definitely another win for Mr. Cronenberg. If you use this call me THE NEW FLESH.

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 24, 2005, 9:12 p.m. CST

    this sounds

    by slappy jones


  • Feb. 24, 2005, 9:16 p.m. CST

    "Things turn a rye"

    by pencil-man

    fucking moron.

  • Feb. 24, 2005, 9:32 p.m. CST

    Yes, but will it be as good as......

    by mammone38

    The Brood, which is AMAZING Cronenberg.

  • Feb. 24, 2005, 11:06 p.m. CST

    I don't even need to read the review

    by Silver Shamrock

    All I need to hear is "Directed by David Cronenberg" and I'm fucking there.

  • Feb. 24, 2005, 11:47 p.m. CST

    All Hail The New Flesh

    by Krazee-Eyez Kill

    Strapping Young Lad is amazing. Hopefully that's what this guy was implying by calling himself THE NEW FLESH.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 12:02 a.m. CST

    Stereo/Crimes of the Future

    by full_time_killer

    Early Cronenberg art house from '69. Anyone seen 'em? I have the collected screenplays of Cronenberg and they sound like a total mind fuck from the voice overs. Apparently he's in production on a new sci-fi project as well called 'Painkillers' I just hope it's not based on the lame PC game.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 1:25 a.m. CST

    Can't wait to see this

    by BillEmic

    All hail the new flesh is right. David Cronenberg is - dare I say it? - the best Canadian director of all time. Just kidding, he's simply one of the best directors of all time, period. I can't wait to see this.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 3:06 a.m. CST

    Went to this screening and it was awful. Cronenberg's worst (exc

    by heywood jablomie

    Cronenberg attempting hackwork in the style of an Ashley Judd Paramount movie. The whole thing is like a godawful TV movie, except with bizarre splatter violence and icky, gnarly sex scenes stuck into the boredom. I hope the man was well paid.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 3:29 a.m. CST

    Cronenbergs first films..

    by Jokum

    Hi, Just thought I'd let you know that both <i>Crimes of the Future</i> and <i>Stereo</i> can be found on the limited edition DVD of Cronenberg's <i>Fast Company</i> released last year by Blue Underground. They have been remastered and restored, and it was a sheer joy to finally see them both in good quality and not in 5th generation Japanese subtitled VHS. Can't wait to see David's latest - have read the graphic novel and it seems very fitting material for him to tackle. Just hope that it will reach a wide audience!

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 3:30 a.m. CST

    Cronenbergs first films..

    by Jokum

    Hi, Just thought I'd let you know that both "Crimes of the Future" and "Stereo" can be found on the limited edition DVD of Cronenberg's Fast Company released last year by Blue Underground. They have all been remastered and restored, and it was a sheer joy to finally see them both in good quality and not in 5th generation Japanese subtitled VHS. Can't wait to see David's latest - have read the graphic novel and it seems very fitting material for him to tackle. Just hope that it will reach a wide audience!

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 5:22 a.m. CST

    A Rye

    by dastickboy

    It's awry. If you can't spell it don't use it and get yourself a theosaurus. :-/

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 5:41 a.m. CST

    Maria Bello

    by Barney Hood

    She does some cool films - I like most of the stuff she is in.....that's all I had to say really - didn't fully think this post through.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 6:13 a.m. CST

    Did Cronenberg *ever* make a bad film?

    by SalvatoreGravano

    Hell, he even makes films better by *being* in them - see: "Nightbreed".

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 9:08 a.m. CST

    A Rye

    by Barney Hood

    I'm not going to berate someone for an inability to spell, but this site should really use a spellchecker at the editorial level - these things really do matter. :(

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 9:41 a.m. CST

    A rye and in a diner

    by DannyOcean01

    Now maybe I'm giving this guy too much credit, but think about it. Things go a rye in a diner. Methinks he's making a joke, albeit a lame one. Or maybe the guy just can't spell for poop.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 10:34 a.m. CST

    It's awry. If you can't spell it don't use it and get yourself a

    by SutureSelf

    Theosaurus? It's "thesaurus." "If you can't spell it don't use it..." Sorry, dastickboy, but you opened the door.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 11:14 a.m. CST

    I knew as soon as I read it...

    by Lacloake

    That someone would jump on it... "Theosaurus? It's "thesaurus." "If you can't spell it don't use it..." Sorry, dastickboy, but you opened the door." You dipshit, he meant to spell it incorrectly, it's supposed to be funny!

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 11:54 a.m. CST

    Thesaurus (thee-soar'us). n.

    by Childe Roland

    1. A small, spindly limbed and slow moving reptellian creature which lived during the Jurassic period of the Mesozoic era, surviving primarily by confusing its abundant larger dinosaur predators with overly complicated and flowery language. 2. A crutch for people who really shouldn't be writing for amss consumption in the first place. Write the way you talk. It's safer. There's a reason the dinosaurs didn't make it. As for the movie... been waiting on it for some time now. Sounds like it could be pretty good.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 12:13 p.m. CST

    But how much skin does she show?

    by BigTuna

    MAria Bello is hot. I don't know why she's not a bigger name then she is, but damn she's fine!

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 12:39 p.m. CST

    So... a year away then?

    by Blacklist

    freaking limited releases. Can't say I enjoyed Spider, but I didn't hate it. Looking forward to this.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 1:02 p.m. CST

    Goddammed super critical jagoffs...

    by Pontsing Barset

    Ever consider that the reviewer might not be a native English speaker? You wankers are oh so clever and oh so superior. The lot of you constitute nothing more than a pain in the ass. 'Talkback full of hemorrhoids...

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 1:07 p.m. CST

    get over it, PB

    by blue7

    Even non-native English speakers can use a fucking dictionary. Using "a rye" instead of "awry" is seriously retarded. Blaming it on ESL-related issues is the domain of loads like Blade Runner Unit. Excuses, excuses. Good on ya, though, for spelling hemorrhoids right.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 1:41 p.m. CST


    by dinosauron

    my brother who attended the screening says the movie is awful and dull and audience didn`t seem to like it at all. No wonder the studio sent Planty McPlant aka First Time Reviewer to try to fix what`s already broken.

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 4:44 p.m. CST

    Whitebread Mafia guys

    by nowitsdark

    Wiiliam Hurt and Ed Harris are Mafia guys? I assume you mean organized crime and not actual Mafia - as good as these guys are as actors, I have a hard time seeing them as Italian. That said, I can't wait. Where's Cronenberg been?

  • Feb. 25, 2005, 7:55 p.m. CST

    Yeah for Cronenberg!

    by Sro100

    Gotta see it.

  • Feb. 26, 2005, 4:51 a.m. CST

    I didn't read past the first paragraph...

    by BurnHollywood

    ...Because I realized the asshat was going to give away the whole thing. *** Cronenberg is a Old God, no longer worshipped by the foolish and doomed...

  • Feb. 26, 2005, 3:52 p.m. CST


    by TenderBranson

    will be his next film. he's been in development on it for years, it was supposed to be done before spider, but alas... it originally had nic cage attached, god knows why. painkiller's is about this french artist, forgot her name, who gets surgeries in the name of art. she's quite androgynous and fucked up looking (think genesis p-orridge). and she'll have this fucked up plastic surgeries performed on her in art galleries, or bring the tapes of the videos and show them.

  • Feb. 26, 2005, 5:30 p.m. CST

    CRASH sucked.

    by Gilkuliehe

    Elias Koteas should be fucking drowned. eXistenZ on the other hand, was a smart and provocative vehicle to Cronenberg's evolving sensibility. Ergo, he's alright.

  • Feb. 27, 2005, 10:37 p.m. CST

    Plant. Seriously.

    by ZombieChrist

  • Feb. 27, 2005, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Why I think it's a plant

    by ZombieChrist

    Language idiocy like the aforementioned "a rye" -- and then in the last graf mentioning the great production design??? Studio plant. But I love Cronenberg and will see this.

  • Feb. 28, 2005, 7:28 a.m. CST

    'Elias Koteas should be fucking drowned'

    by Wild At Heart

    There goes the neighbourhood. They should start the Cronies to celebrate Diabolical Dave's life in front of the camera. I'm pushing for his amiable assassin in 'To Die For'.

  • Feb. 28, 2005, 9:31 p.m. CST

    I'll wait for the sequel, "A History of Sex."

    by HanFiredFirst