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Monday, March 20, 2006

Film Review: A History of Violence

A History of Violence

Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt

Cronenberg realises the Hitchcock potential of this graphic novel-based tale through his typical combination of ultra-violence and dodgy sexual encounters that gives Mortensen's pale white bottom a much needed airing.

It may be a thriller that burns away apace, but it's execution (unlike the murder-type ones portrayed) is a little sloppy. There are two sorts of people who will view this film: those who notice the killers in the very first scene leave their fingerprints, rather sloppily and casually, everywhere - and those who will be moved by the cliché hollywood moments of OTT. I'm in the former category. And corny, Smalltown USA couldn't be more straight-laced. This is Walton's country. The killers are intent on a mindless rampage, but pick on the wrong guy in his corny, small town diner. Mortensen plays the diner-owner who takes them out in a style they would have appreciated and is feted as a corny, small town hero.

Things turn weird from here on in when Ed Harris (as a convincingly menacing "back East" gangster) recognises the avenging corny small town hero as someone he would very much like to have a chat with about very important unfinished business - immediately. William Hurt will turn in a less convincing performance as a gangster later on - not quite being able to pull off the role in what threatened to turn into farce and rather damaged the whole impression of the film for me. However, before it tends to drift, we have the multiple tensions on Mortensen's family-man's wife and child, publicity, the local cop and Ed Harris to keep the punter's on edge.

The violent episodes were handled matter-of-factly. Cronenberg and the actors have done enough for us to care about the outcome - the terror of the threat finds it way through some good dramatic acting from both Bello and Mortensen. Hurt trying to do Gary Oldman, on the other hand, is an anti-climax. If Cronenberg had sweated as much over everything else as he did over the kinky sex scenes it would have been an even better film.

3.5/5 stars


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