Cronenberg Monograph on Violence

DATELINE:  A History of Violence

history of violence

When you live in a farmhouse modeled after Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” you know there is something secretive afoot.  A History of Violence weaves into a simple emblem of the macabre in American society.

Tom Stall and his average American family seem obsequious to the point of dull in a violent world. Around them in society are mad dog sociopathic killers. When two show up at Tom’s diner in middle American Indiana, they are about to do mindless mayhem when Tom (Viggo Mortensen) emerges from his milquetoast personality into something of a visceral killer. Out of nowhere, or so it seems.

Media attention is the last recognition Tom wants, but he is a hero for saving his townfolk. Alas, bigwig mobsters from Philadelphia (Ed Harris) arrive to check him out.

The sheriff is alarmed. The question at hand is:  can Tom be a mystery man in Witness Protection?

What starts as a wave of brutal violence, a pointless societal attitude, soon transforms into something more akin to DNA at work.

Tom’s pantywaist son, Ashton Holmes, transforms into a chip off the old block. Wife, played by Maria Bello, becomes a vixen of rough sex—and Tom transforms into Joey, a Philadelphia hit man, trying to go straight.

When your name is Stall, you know you’ve been looking for a resting spot. Why call himself Stall, his wife asks, and the answer is ominous: it was available.

Muted music and waves of explosive responses hallmark this brilliant Cronenberg film of 2005. It takes Tom back to his roots to meet his mobster brother (William Hurt) in an ultimate confrontation.

Blood is not running thicker than water in the movie, but it clots into crime families, becoming a mesmerizing movie experience.