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 clichÃ© 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.