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Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

If you read a review in which someone excitedly explains to you how A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is a huge departure for director David Cronenberg, a radical reinvention of what it is that he does, feel free to stop reading that review because that person either has no idea what they’re talking about, or they simply don’t understand his work.

This is not a departure from his earlier work. In fact, it fits neatly into his filmography and expands on themes and ideas that have obsessed this brilliant filmmaker for decades now. Working from an exceptionally lean and smart screenplay by Josh Olson (adapted from the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke), Cronenberg has crafted a film that feels more like BLUE VELVET than it does like THE FLY, but the surface is deceptive. This is a monster movie, just as surely as anything he’s ever done, and the monster in this film is our own capacity for violence as well as our innate attraction to it.

Cronenberg has always been a political filmmaker. His films are unflinching, and the reason he makes people so uncomfortable isn’t because of gore, but because he forces you to address ideas that make you uncomfortable, and he refuses to let you off the hook by wrapping everything up in happy endings. By “political,” I don’t mean he makes movies about Republicans and Democrats, but rather that he courts controversy fearlessly, and he dares to plumb some of the darker corners of the human psyche. If you’ve seen the trailers for A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, then you know the set-up by now: Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a small-town guy, the owner of a diner and the father of two kids. He’s been married to his wife Edie (Maria Bello) for a while now, and the two of them are still deeply in love. He lives a fairly idyllic life until the night two thugs wander into his diner at closing time and try to kill his waitress while terrorizing everyone in the place. Tom leaps into action, moving with a startling efficiency, and kills both of the thugs. It’s a shocking sequence, and Cronenberg uses the language of big Hollywood action films here, making it exciting on purpose.

The local news canonizes Tom as a hero, plastering his face all over TV and newspapers, and for a few days, he’s a big story. He wants the whole thing to blow over, but instead, it attracts more attention, the kind he can’t afford. When Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) rolls into town, his henchmen in tow, Tom doesn’t seem to recognize them. They know him, though, and not as Tom Stall. Instead, they keep calling him “Joey Cusack,” and they’re convinced he used to be a killer in Philadephia, someone they are determined to find. Is this a misunderstanding? Or does Tom have secrets that his family never even guessed were there? The film raises questions about how well you ever really know someone, and because Olson and Cronenberg largely abandoned the second half of the graphic novel, they were able to focus on the really provocative material, the character stuff, and that choice pays off in one of the year’s most difficult, demanding films.

All of Cronenberg’s usual collaborators are involved this time, including director of photography Peter Suschitzky, who he’s worked with ever since DEAD RINGERS, as well as editor Ron Sanders and production designer Carol Spier. I would argue that his most important collaborator is Howard Shore, his composer. Shore’s been best known for the last few years as the composer of the LORD OF THE RINGS films, as well as the upcoming KING KONG, but I’ve always had a particular fondness for the work he does with Cronenberg. Once again, he contributes an operatic score that underlines the whole movie with a sort of throbbing dread. It’s a big score, and the person I saw the film with felt like it took them out of the movie. I can see why. Cronenberg’s films are wrapped in a controlled style that isn’t meant to approximate real life. This is a heightened reality, slightly surreal, and the score is a big part of that. It works for me, though, and I think it’s bold. That hyperreality isn’t just a stylistic choice, though. It’s subtext in this film. We’re so soaked in action films as a culture at this point that we imagine every confrontation in our lives in action movie terms, whether we mean to or not. Kids are raised to see the world as a Joel Silver movie, and “kicking ass” is a viable alternative in solving any problem. Cronenberg makes sure you remember this is a movie all the way through, but in a way, he’s simply giving voice to what these characters are already expressing.

Ashton Holmes plays Jack, Tom’s teenage son, and it’s a textured performance that works on a lot of levels. We already know that teenagers are prone to the dramatic, viewing their lives as grand drama. There’s a prick (played with excessive intensity by Kyle Schmid) who bullies Jack at school, and it seems like it starts over nothing at all. It escalates quickly, though, and Jack tries to talk his way out of each fight. After his father finally reveals his penchant for violence, though, Jack unleashes his own rage in a fight that happens lightning quick and ends up hospitalizing the bully. Again... Cronenberg stages the fight like it’s a Steven Segal movie, with perfectly thrown punches and bone-crunching sound effects that almost blow out the speakers in the theater. He’s careful to never use any slow motion, though. These fights are fast, and you almost don’t see them. You get a sense of incredible speed and power, and then they’re over. What is it that this scene’s supposed to imply? Did Jack inherit his father’s knack for dishing out pain to others? Is it inherent, something he can’t escape? Or is it simply that he’s been empowered by his father’s encounter, allowing him to tap that thing we all carry inside of us? The film doesn’t offer you the answers, either... just the questions that it wants you to consider later.

I’ll admit that my first reaction after seeing the film was surprise that the MPAA passed it with an R rating, but it’s not the violence that I thought they’d have a problem with... it’s the sexuality. They’ve stonewalled Cronenberg on his sexually themed material before, most notably with CRASH, and there’s no question that the scenes he included here (added late in the process by Olson at Cronenberg’s request) are crucial to the development of these characters. They’re also frank and adult and completely honest, and even though they don’t cross any sort of line by showing penetration, they suggest real sexuality in a way that most movie scenes don’t. They serve as a sort of road map to the relationship between Tom and Edie. In the first scene, everything between them is perfect, and their sex is passionate, playful, and fully connected. Later in the film, after Edie realizes that she doesn’t know the man she’s married to, there’s a sex scene on a staircase that is violent, angry, all about the struggle to redefine who they are to one another. I’ve read a few people describe the scene as rape, but they’re wrong. This is consensual, but confused, two people simply trying to figure out how they fit together once all the rules have changed.

Cronenberg is one of the great actor’s directors working right now, something he doesn’t get enough credit for. He directed Jeff Goldblum to one of his best performances in THE FLY, he got remarkable work out of Peter Weller and Judy Davis in NAKED LUNCH, he managed to get Jeremy Irons to give two of his best performances in DEAD RINGERS, and he pushed Ralph Fiennes further than anyone else ever has in SPIDER. His respect for actors is evident in the way he creates spaces for them, allowing them to try anything. Now he’s given Viggo Mortensen a chance to get back to the edgy character work that first made me notice him in Sean Penn’s THE INDIAN RUNNER. I think it’s fascinating that Viggo took the detour into LORD OF THE RINGS and international movie stardom, but I’m willing to bet we don’t see that sort of thing from him in the future. He’s always been the type of actor who likes to vanish into roles, playing people on the fringe, broken souls with the potential for trouble. If you see this film twice, you’ll see two different performances from Viggo, and that’s the real genius of the movie. The first time through, you’re watching him the same way his family is, accepting him as Tom Stall, loving family man, quiet and kind and nearly invisible. But when you see it a second time, you’ll see Joey Cusack lurking behind those eyes, pushing through even in the moments before the thugs bring violence back into his life. You can’t really change your nature, no matter how much you want to. The best you can hope for is to control it, and that’s all that Tom has managed. That control slips away from him little by little over the course of the film, and by the end, he seems to realize that Tom is just a mask, something he wore to hide himself from the people around him. That mask is gone, and Tom’s going to have to embrace his nature. Much of the work that Viggo does in the film is non-verbal, and he deserves praise for the subtle way he switches in and out of his two personas. Maria Bello is equally good as his wife, and she continues to define herself as an actor unafraid of any material. It goes beyond her willingness to be naked onscreen. The scene where she first confronts Tom about her suspicions that he is indeed Joey is a powerhouse, and the final scene in the film is one of the year’s most remarkable moments, raw and painful and almost too much to bear. The connection she formed with Viggo comes through loud and clear onscreen, and anyone who wants to see what great film acting looks like should check out their work together.

The supporting cast is uniformly good, but the two standouts are Ed Harris and William Hurt. Harris has been a reliable presence in film for so long that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he does great work here, but Hurt’s been missing in action for a while. When he first appears, he’s almost unrecognizable. He relishes every second of his role, and he makes it count. Although this isn’t a comedy, he brings a jet-black comic sensibility to his scenes that’s hard to deny, and there’s one reaction shot in particular that had me shaking. It’s a brief appearance, but it’s a reminder of just how impressive he can be when he’s used correctly.

The film has a great opening scene and a great closing scene, and those bookends really do frame the story perfectly. Like I said, Josh Olson’s screenplay is a marvel, one of those adaptations that improves on the source material because it makes so many smart choices. An ending like this one is tricky because it demands that the audience have a reaction. You won’t be spoon-fed anything by this film, and for that reason, it may confuse some viewers who are used to be told exactly what to feel at each moment. For anyone who wants to be treated like an adult in a theater and who is interested in exploring the uneasy relationship that we have with violence as a culture, this is a must-see, a challenge worth accepting. More than anything, it proves that David Cronenberg is still working at the peak of his creative powers, and that’s very good news, indeed.

I’ll have my interview with Cronenberg ready for you by the end of the weekend, and I think it came together really well. He’s just as fascinating in person as his films are onscreen, so hopefully it’ll be a good read. In the meantime, I’ve got some more reviews to get ready. Until then...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 29, 2005, 8:31 p.m. CST

    Can't wait to see this

    by zekmoe

    at home , in a nice home theater. My kind of lights out flik.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 8:37 p.m. CST

    Hopefully this will be the last review of this movie I read befo

    by seppukudkurosawa

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 8:37 p.m. CST

    i'm burned out on this already. i'll buy a bootleg on C

    by HypeEndsHere

    seriously, while your reviews are the best Mori, i've read four reviews of Violence on this site already, so i just skipped through.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 8:54 p.m. CST

    Just read it and it looked like the best one I've read so fa

    by seppukudkurosawa

    but you never can tell until you've seen it. I agree with Moriarty about the fact that great scenes frame the whole movie. Certain films exist solely for those one or two scenes; they just flip the film askew and shed a new light on it. The fact is genius rarely shines through much of recent cinema, but even then there are always those one or two scenes that justify the whole endeavour. Chances are that the audiences who saw this film who were completely unable to buy it didn't quite allow themselves to stick with it the whole way. This is a character-driven piece, and most people carry themselves inwards until certain moments where they crack through the fa

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:10 p.m. CST


    by Nate Champion

    I'm in agreement here... Moriarty, we know you saw this movie how many weeks ago? And only a review now? Spend your time on something that hasn't already been written about fifty times here... like Serenity, maybe?

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:22 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... I saw the movie a week ago. And it's opening wide tomorrow. Right now, it's still only on a few screens in a few major markets. I'm writing my SERENITY review right now. I spend all day chained to my computer, Nate, and I get it done when I get it done. But I'm not about to sit out writing about a new Cronenberg film, especially not one this good.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:25 p.m. CST

    Mori, I think Nate it's safe to say Nate was being sarcastic

    by seppukudkurosawa

    and talkback for that matter.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:26 p.m. CST

    Rewording: Mori, I think it's safe to say that Nate was bein

    by seppukudkurosawa

    I don't know how that happened.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:32 p.m. CST

    Sarcastic Or Not...

    by drew mcweeny

    ... I'm still writing about it, because my perspective isn't Harry's, or Herc's, or Capone's, or (shudder) Massawyrm's. The point is that none of us react to films the same way, and we've always tried to give room to as many different points of view on a film as possible.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:33 p.m. CST

    Why can't see through this movie?

    by CorporalHicks

    I "get" the movie. I understand. "A History of Violence." Ha-ha. Showing us a big 'ol metaphor of American "violence" be it with force, sex, or whatever. Doesn't change the fact that script is painfully obvious & not at all natural. The actors do what they can, but the material (& the director) care more about making abstract points than telling a real story & letting the details of that reality reveal the depth instead of the other way around. I hate when a director tries to tell us he's smarter than we are. Sorry, it just doesn't work for me.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:33 p.m. CST

    Well because it's you

    by seppukudkurosawa

    I'm gonna read it anyway. I haven't been let down yet.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:33 p.m. CST

    Who the fuck cares!!! We all know this movie rules! Fuck the re

    by plissken77

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:36 p.m. CST

    You got me so mad I can't spell right.

    by plissken77


  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:39 p.m. CST

    holy hell thanks for the play-by-play

    by white owl

    I stopped myself from reading this "review" about four paragraphs down because I felt Moriarty was just telling us how the movie plays out, scene by scene. I want to find these things out myself when I walk into the theater, like the diner scene, or the cheerleader sex scene (thanks Harry for ruining that one). I just hope my inital viewing of this movie isn't marred in anyway by almost reading the plot laid out up above. I respect your work Mori, but I'll pass this time.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:40 p.m. CST


    by Flummage

    Nice review Mori, even with Vern's still lurking around. It would seem that the movie delivers from every angle. Can't wait to see it. I just wonder now, how it will play accross America? Will the masses go for Viggo post LOTR or will be people be looking for an "entertainment" movies around now, considering whats happened lately? Will the BO be hampered by low attendence in the more conservitive areas?

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:47 p.m. CST

    forget it CorporalHicks

    by Thunderballs

    No one here wants to hear the truth, or your opinion. They'll say you hate the film on purpose for some reason. Fuck it. The movie stunk, it was clunky, obvious, and forced.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:54 p.m. CST

    "I hate when a director tries to tell us he's smarter than w

    by seppukudkurosawa

    We're talking about Cronenberg here...I'll safely admit that he's smarter than me.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:56 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    Hey, Thunderballs, why is it that someone who agrees with you tells "the truth," and someone who doesn't has an agenda? The person I took with me to HISTORY OF VIOLENCE didn't like it at all, and he was able to explain exactly why to me. I didn't agree with him, but I also didn't have to stop the car and have a hissy fit, which it seems most Talkbackers would do if someone dared to disagree with them. I think great art polarizes viewers, and many of my favorite films are hated by just as many people as they're loved by. If you and Hicks think the film is clunky or obvious or forced, that's fine. Like I said, I don't think there's anything "natural" about the way Cronenberg shot it. It's a heightened reality from frame one. But have we really reached the point where no one is able to have a civil discussion about why they disagree about a movie anymore? If so, that's sad.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:58 p.m. CST

    White Owl

    by drew mcweeny

    I think I actually tread pretty lightly on spoilers. Every plot detail I talk about occurs in the first act, and I'm intentionally vague when discussing everything else. Now, in the Cronenberg interview, we'll get into some heavy spoilers, so I'll make that clear in the introduction. But I think the review's safe, and I was careful to not ruin the film.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 10:02 p.m. CST

    And Cronenberg's always been a man who thinks up a theme and

    by seppukudkurosawa

    most auteurs are like that. The thing is he doesn't often do it with words so much as painful images, scenes; you've gotta be blunt to make a blunt point. And do you go about your film-watching experience saying, "Bingo I've got the subtext almost instantly! Dumbo having such big ears makes him lonely. Yeah, that's it. OK, now what else's on?" When someone says watch the film, they really mean watch it, not react to it.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 10:31 p.m. CST

    very well then

    by white owl

    I'm seeing this tomorrow and will afterwards read that interview. I figure it's the best way to go, I suggest others go that route as well.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 10:49 p.m. CST

    Obvious comment: a modern Western

    by Boxcutter

    Fair review, Mori, and clearly honestly felt, but I'm one of those skeptics (non-hissy-fit-throwing, mercifully) who thinks this one has been puffed way out of proportion. The problem I have with its being lauded as a character piece is partly that this is a tacit admission that the story is secondary because it's age-old and the plot is no big whoop - and, yes, the performances are good, despite the conscious artifice - or as you put it "heightened reality" - of the scenario that makes them all stock types. No way of knowing, but I feel Cronenberg was initially stifled by the script, even if he was unaware of its origins in a very difficult medium to adapt for screen, and it's a nod to the skill of the director and the actors that they almost fill out these ciphers into real people, lure you into caring about these, well, essentially, symbols in a story that's been told many, many times. Which, again, may be a totally conscious artistic decision - hence the title and its metaphor. Frankly, your companion has a point about the music, too: it didn't help: Shore's in danger of becoming an aural signposter, using music as a huge Gilliam pointy-finger like Horner and Williams. It does jar, frequently. This is a minor Cronenberg work next to The Fly, Dead Ringers et al. Better than most of the muck this year, and I'm glad it'll make the man some money, but it's no great departure (you're thematically dead on about that) and sits squarely in the pantheon of Shane, Unforgiven, even Pale Rider, Outland, Straw Dogs, etc. As ever, he uses the splashes of gore and sex very skilfully, but this film is hardly the first to flirt with the audience's self-conscious, guilt/pleasure relationship with cathartic violence. Peckinpah and Leone were bigger and better cockteasers in that respect. Looking forward to the interview.

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 11:55 p.m. CST

    Nicely written, Moriarty

    by Ribbons

    I can't say it made me want to see the film as I've been planning on seeing it for some time now, but your very brief breakdown of both the themes and performances in the piece hopefully served as good conversation starters for people who've already peeped it to come talk back about it. I'll try to get out of the way if the comments get too spoiler-ific.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:09 a.m. CST

    This is awesome...

    by El Scorcho

    Both Harry and Moriarty have been personally responding to a ton of posts lately, and I just think that is cool. Interaction with the reviewer is always a great thing, something Roger Ebert can never give us... Keep writing the awesome reviews, man.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:15 a.m. CST


    by Bob of the Shire

    This film has been playing in my town all week and I didn't know. I live in a small central Texas city that doesn't get anything, so I hardly expected us to get something in limited release. Still, I have plans to see it tomorrow. Can't wait, great review Moriarty.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:17 a.m. CST


    by Bob of the Shire

    This film has been playing in my town all week and I didn't know. I live in a small central Texas city that doesn't get anything, so I hardly expected us to get something in limited release. Still, I have plans to see it tomorrow. Can't wait, great review Moriarty.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:18 a.m. CST


    by Bob of the Shire

    This film has been playing in my town all week and I didn't know. I live in a small central Texas city that doesn't get anything, so I hardly expected us to get something in limited release. Still, I have plans to see it tomorrow. Can't wait, great review Moriarty.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:19 a.m. CST

    Oh damn

    by Bob of the Shire

    My computer went nuts, my apologies for the triple post.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:24 a.m. CST

    Apology not accepted!

    by Ribbons

    Morbo has spoken!

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 1:06 a.m. CST

    i wanna see this soooo bad

    by luckylindy

    i still hafta catch up and see corpse bride eats up all my time nowadays

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 1:23 a.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    Don't feel bad. I haven't seen CORPSE BRIDE yet, either.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 1:54 a.m. CST

    AH, FUCK!

    by Vern

    From my review: "This is pretty much the most 'normal' movie Dave Cronenberg has ever made. But it's intense, intelligent and serious so it doesn't feel like some kind of sellout movie. Just a rare moment where the guy is working on a wavelength that normal humans might be able to relate to. I'm sure his next movie will have vaginas growing out of people's arms and machines made out of tongues and crap like that and you and I will enjoy it but I think it's nice that once every ten or fifteen years he is willing to invite the rest of the neighborhood in for a show." From Moriarty's review: "If you read a review in which someone excitedly explains to you how A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is a huge departure for director David Cronenberg, a radical reinvention of what it is that he does, feel free to stop reading that review because that person either has no idea what they

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 2:12 a.m. CST

    Except Vern

    by drew mcweeny

    Because Vern is always right. Period.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 2:27 a.m. CST

    Saw this movie an hour ago....

    by eppdude

    It is terrific. Cronenberg's film is thoughtful, haunting, and at times surprisingly funny. The good movies, it seems, are back.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 2:51 a.m. CST


    by Darth Thoth

    Saw this movie on Wednesday. Plan to see it again today. Thanks for the review Moriarty. You definitely gave me some things to think about and also to revisit when I see the flick again. I appreciate the insight as I've been trying to figure out my own thoughts regarding the film- what impression it left on me, what Cronenberg's trying to say, the family dynamics especially between Viggo and Bello and Viggo and Holmes, etc.. Thanks.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 3:15 a.m. CST

    it's ironic-

    by bluebottle

    that a canadian would make a film that makes you examine the nature of human violence... makes you wonder about us canadians, eh? great review mori. can't wait for the interview.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 3:22 a.m. CST

    That's not irony.

    by Some Dude

    Say "hi" to Paul Bernardo.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 5:43 a.m. CST

    Realism and naturalism in the mainstream

    by jasper Stillwell

    I see this a lot when talking about Cronenberg and other directors who choose to step 'outside the box' cinematically that 'it isn't realistic', 'it isn't beleivable' like 'realistic' is the benchmark for what makes 'great' work. That somehow the points he makes have been let down by some kind inferior filmmaking. 'Realism' as we see it, is merely an approximation, a mode of address that came in big time in mainstream film around the 70s but has been a method used before and since of making themes, ideas and stories palatable to mass audiences. Cronenberg (also from Godard onwards I guess?) takes this as a given that it's another bogus trick used by cinema and often is mistakenly employed in a simplistic way as some kind of arbiter of quality. His stilted, often slightly hyperreal address - as Mori correctly isolates - is one of his signatures and in that he can put across a variety of points just as, if not more, effectively than say Tom Hanks was in some obvious, 'realistic', conventional stylistic and dialogue patterns and via the accepted Hollywood shot and editing choices. Nothing in cinema is realistic, Cronenberg though offers a 'truth' that is more than just naturalism and more than just a set of ticks that in having some kind of namechecking of contemporary gestures and social rituals somehow confer 'quality' or authenticity. Cinema ain't reality, thank god (...and neither of course is documentary) but there is more than one effective mode to getting your message across. We've been spoonfed so long that it's often difficult to step outside the box ourselves in how we look at a film. By the way I think Venom sucks as a villain, what's wrong with Electro?

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 8:33 a.m. CST

    two things

    by Wee Willie

    I saw OHOV about a week ago. For the most part, I thought it was a great film. I hated it at first, but as time passed, it stuck with me. but there were two glaring things that ruined the film for me 1) the character of the bully who pushed the kid around seemed transplanted from some '50's juvenile delinquent movie. His performace was awful, but he had really bad dialogue to deal with. Totally took me out of the film. And it didn't even work in a Lynchian, retro kind of way. It just stuck out like a rusty nail in your femur. 2) Tom's daughter. Horrible child actress. Didn't sound like a real kid, she sounded like a sedated kid reciting lines she memorized with a gun to her head. Horrible, horrible, horrible. If those two elements were corrected, I'd like the film a lot more.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 10:42 a.m. CST

    I need to see this movie!

    by dejectedgeek

    Every time I read AICN reviews of this movie, my want to see this movie grows and grows. I'm so happy it got to see wide release and not stuck as limited.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 11:04 a.m. CST

    I predict...

    by Thunderballs

    I predict once this movie opens wide today that the opinions here will come back to earth a little. People won't hate it as much as I do, but I guarantee A LOT of people will think the film is mediocre. Doesn't help that everyone and his mother is hyping this movie for no good reason. I don't remember Cronenberg's Crash garnering such great reviews, and that movie ACTUALLY said something about society, not like AHOV which pretends to say something but is just a generic guy tries to escape his old life but can't story. Crash on the other hand is simply a masterpiece, one of the finest films ever made. Why is it Cronenberg's good movies get ignored, but his mainstream pap like Dead Zone and AHOV get praised? If the public likes a Cronenberg film, you know you have a problem.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 11:42 a.m. CST

    Re: Some Dude

    by bluebottle


  • Sept. 30, 2005, 11:57 a.m. CST


    by Nagual

    very nice post. Yes, I agree. "Realism" in cinema is a joke, mostly associated with so-called "low-budget" or "indie" films, bad lighting, shaky camerawork, etc. It's become its own cliche, even imitated now on primetime network TV dramas, and it is a false concept to boot. What is "real" to an audience is what resonates emotionally. To quote Nicholson quoting Kubrick from the making of The Shining "Yeah, it's REAL, but it's not INTERESTING."

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 12:59 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    I know who directed BLUE VELVET. That's the film this feels closest to, though. That's why people are having the knee-jerk reaction and calling this a "departure," but as I said... that's just on the surface. This is thematically a Cronenberg film all the way.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Stentorian- do you have better things to do than try and catch m

    by seppukudkurosawa

    We all know who directed Blue Velvet, and some of us even know who was the best boy on that film(the disturbed ones, that is...Ok, me). Like Vern pointed out in his history of violence review, to say "David Lynch's Blue Velvet" would be under-rating the audience a little, don't you think?

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 1:12 p.m. CST

    The reason why he compared it to Blue Velvet

    by seppukudkurosawa

    Was because that was a film about quite an idyllic community on the surface with a sinister and crooked spine underneath...there's no way it's a random reference in FEEL.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 9:18 p.m. CST

    Say what you want about Cronenberg...

    by Ace Hunter

    ...but his films always look good and are interesting. You never walk out and say "Seen it. Been there. Done that." By the way, good review, Drew. Keep 'em coming. Nice to read reviews that have substance.

  • Sept. 30, 2005, 11:35 p.m. CST

    very good...

    by Wyrdy the Gerbil

    just seen it in a doubleheader with Goal!(great film btw)..excellent film it everything you said it was

  • Oct. 1, 2005, 2:15 a.m. CST


    by Mr Brownstone

    you give idiots a bad name.

  • Oct. 1, 2005, 3:25 a.m. CST

    About the sex scenes

    by TomPalpatine

    I felt they were pretty unnecessary, especially the 2nd one. The first, though playful and indicitive of the relationship, went a little far by the time Viggo had his face in her vagina, and was just laughable by 69 time.And the 2nd scene, while surprising and interesting, wasn't really worth it. All it tells me is that they only know how to relate to eachother sexually. Sure you praise the sex scene because it's in a great film, but if it weren't there you wouldn't have felt anything was missing, in fact you might have felt better about the relationship at the end. I didn't particularly feel any love between these people, just lust, and by the time she's walking around naked I have to ask myself if the point hasn't already been driven home repeatedly. However, I will say this is a movie of excess, and I loved that about it, so in that context the scenes work, I guess.

  • Oct. 1, 2005, 5:40 p.m. CST

    Well, while it does fit as a Cronenberg movie, it doesn't ha

    by Lenny Nero

    Body as metaphor. True, Tom is a mask for Joey, but this and Spider are new Cronenberg movies. An old one would be, say, Rabid or The Brood.

  • Oct. 2, 2005, 12:34 a.m. CST

    I always get the impression. . .

    by YouInRawbIns?

    of a babboon wannabe-mathematician-who-sucks-at-math trying to teach me calculus. Harry's reviews are genuine, from a movie-lover.

  • Oct. 2, 2005, 12:57 a.m. CST

    Just saw it tonight, I was really looking forward to it...

    by InspectorDoppler

    ...I mean REALLY looking forward to it, ready to love it. But honestly, the two things I found myself doing most were stifling innapropriate laughter and cringing. Not cringing at the violence or the tension of the situations, but at just how goofy it all was. Parts of the audience I saw it with had the same reaction that Harry described certain assholes having in his screening, and while part of me wanted to open up a can of whoop ass, another part actually agreed with their reaction. It WAS funny. It was silly. It wanted so badly to strike home and be resonant and powerful, but for me it fell into b-movie goofyness. I'm obviously in the minority though - I've been reading nothing but raves.

  • Oct. 2, 2005, 11:19 a.m. CST

    I thought Howard the Duck was awesome.

    by pencil-man

  • Oct. 3, 2005, 6:29 a.m. CST

    **Spoilers**The Sex Scenes

    by Groggy

    People have voiced certain problems with the inclusion of these and I kinda think that this is the point. The first scene is followed immediately by Jack and his goth girlfriend uneasily hanging out on the steps of a town building. The exciting and loving teenage fantasy of Tom and Eadie compared to the awkward teenage reality. Not only does the fantasy scene first really confirm that these two are not high school sweethearts - in doing Cronenberg also dashes a familiar but quaint romantic notion of the Western idyll. Eadie is playing out a fantasy role that going by Joey's brothers comments later in the film would never have happened. The only mention we get of sex from Joey's life is a near miss incident of banging a bird on a bar infront of everyone. From the information given we can assume that through Eadie and his new life Tom receives a tenderness that Joey never could have had. The second scene is ugly and painful as Eadie is bounced up and down the stairs - the violent angry sex of two people trying to fit together as snuggly and perfectly as they do in the 69. It is the loss of intimacy - the sex is akin to lust not love. We subsequently see Tom sleeping alone on the sofa and Eadie weeping alone on empty double bed with only her back wounds (carpet burns?) to connect her to the man downstairs. As for seeing her naked, I like to think that is a Cronenberg mind fuck. Eadie is a very attractive older woman. I knew I wouldnt mind seeing the goods whilst watching the movie- he teases with the flashing of the white panties during the cheerleader moment - so Cronenberg obliges, but like the deliberate shots of the human wounds, you wish you hadn't. Something is taken from her character when you see her naked. Like Cronenberg wants you to will Tom/joey and Jack into action, even though it destroys the purity of the family unit and the notion of the 'nice' small town, full of 'nice' people who will do anything to keep it that way. It is an odd transformation for the viewer that quiet easily mirrors that of Tom/Joey. At that moment of nakedness our view of her changes and we then become just as weary of her as we are of Tom/Joey from then on? She becomes a blank slate, because she is reacting to her world being turned upside down. That to me is scary. Her transformation. Do we want her to patch up with Tom/Joey? Do we want her to turf him out? What has this done to her? At least with Tom/Joey we know more about him by the end. In the final scene at the dinner table, what happens after the film fades to black? What does this changed woman say to Tom/Joey? He is as wary of her as we are by the end, which is a very saddening moment.

  • Oct. 3, 2005, 10:59 a.m. CST

    thanx, mr. groggs....

    by duanejones laid (pun intended) it out very well. EVERYTHING (including the sex scenes -- one fun, the other far from) in this film is made to make you think about the implications of each moment in the narrative, which is pretty astonishing when you stop and think about how basically episodic the film is, and in a manner we've seen before countless times. what's different this time is the probing intellect of cronenberg and his excellent cast. i'm amazed at how much the film has stayed with me since seeing it this weekend. simply (literally!) brilliant.

  • Oct. 3, 2005, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Why so melodramatic?

    by Garbageman33

    It reminded me of "Far from Heaven" in terms of how Cronenberg played certain elements really over the top (the bullies, the robbers, the nightmare). It made sense to me in "Far from Heaven" because that was meant as an updating of the old Douglas Sirk movies of the 50s. What exactly was the purpose in History of Violence? Don't get me wrong, I thought it was good. I just thought it could have been less heavy-handed.

  • Oct. 3, 2005, 1:42 p.m. CST

    Best review so far and I'm not usually a fan

    by shutterghost

    I read all of Moriarty's reviews over the last 2 years and I have to say he really nailed it. I've read alot of reviews about History and this one truly encompassed everything about the film from conception to execution. He never touted himself too much as we normally see from other reviewers on this site. Very good job. Just one question. Am I the only one that thought hurt's cartoonish portrayal of a mob boss squished a theme of realism that had been there from the start? Also, why did the "badmen" have to be serial killers and mobsters. That also took some of the zing out of the realism for me. did anyone else feel that way?

  • Oct. 3, 2005, 2:32 p.m. CST

    Saw this earlier today....its fab...

    by The True Priapic

    ...and you're spot on about the scene on the stairs...whoever thinks its rape is a moron.

  • Oct. 4, 2005, 11:52 a.m. CST

    Interesting review Mori...

    by vinceklortho

    You are starting to make better and better remarks regarding the movies you see; a true sign of a huge film buff. Haunting movie that is made more interesting to how people view it. It shows how vulvernable some people are to scenes of sex and violence. I just love how much Cronenberg fucked with me in this film. That takes balls. Great movie.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 6:13 p.m. CST

    I really liked Mortenson's turn as Lucifer in The Prophecy

    by Doc_Strange

    It was comedic, yet scary at the same time "Praying to God I wsn't hiding under the bed. And I was!!!!" Priceless.