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Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

A History of Violence
A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)

I am notoriously squeamish about movie violence. It takes a lot to get me to see violent movies, even critically acclaimed ones. Ask anyone who was with me when I saw such acclaimed films as Silence of the Lambs, Pulp Fiction, or Saving Private Ryan. I’m quick to close my eyes or turn away when the blood starts to flow!

Needless to say, I would not normally be drawn to a movie like A History of Violence. However, it has received some of the best reviews of the fall season. So I psyched myself up for it, and anxiously took my seat in the theater.

Violence is the story of a serene family in a small Midwestern town. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) owns a small diner and his wife Edie (Maria Bello) is a lawyer. Their two children include teenage Jack, hounded by bullies in school, and the younger Sarah who, prophetically, dreams of monsters.

Their idyllic life comes screeching to a halt one evening when a couple of brutal thugs try to rob the diner. Tom dispatches them in a way that leads everyone to wonder about him. How could this quiet, peaceful guy have handled the two thugs the way he did? Is there something about Tom we don’t know?

Director David Cronenberg, known for such horror films as The Fly and Dead Ringers keeps the story going in a straightforward manner. It’s a relief to see a movie without gimmicks or special effects. At the heart of the movie is a mounting suspicion and doubt. You think you know someone so well, and then, suddenly, you don’t know. Early on, Tom says he’s just about the luckiest man on earth. How quickly one’s world can change!

Does History live up to its stellar reviews? On the whole, I’d say no. It is not especially suspenseful. There are no big surprises. If you’ve seen the previews, you probably can guess how everything will turn out. And, as I’m sure you’re wondering by now, what about the violence? There are four or five scenes which are pretty bloody. Poor Tom gets splattered with blood on more than one occasion. And, yes, I did turn away from the screen more than once.

However, the movie is not without its merits. The most memorable scenes are not the violent ones, but the family scenes. A tender, playful lovemaking scene between Tom and Edie early on stands in sharp contrast to an ugly sex scene late in the film. In a fine cast, Maria Bello is especially good. Her body language when she is around Tom changes visibly from love to suspicion to revulsion.

Cronenberg saves the best scene for last. It takes place in total silence around the kitchen table, as the family decides, after their lives have been torn apart, how they will go on. Even though my reaction to A History of Violence is mixed, I admit that I can’t get the ending out of my mind. In the midst of so much violence around us, how do we, as individuals, families, and communities, proceed? The night before I saw this film, I attended a silent vigil commemorating the 2000th American killed in Iraq. Like the Stall family, we gather in silence and determine who we are and how our own history of violence will shape us.

Tom Condon, OP

Genre: Drama Release Date Sept. 23, 2005

Running Time 96 minutes

MPAA Rating R - for strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use

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