A History of Violence

Friday, February 6 - Saturday, February 7, 2015

35mm print

“Though this is certainly Cronenberg’s most ‘mainstream’ movie in years, the fact that it’s so immediately enjoyable as a terrific thriller does not diminish its less obvious virtues. Indeed, its apparent effortlessness in transcending simple generic concerns to interrogate a range of issues surrounding violence, justice, heroism and identity should not distract attention from its subtly subversive critique of the American Dream (or should one say nightmare?). Diner proprietor Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), his lawyer wife Edie (Maria Bello) and their two kids seem to have a pretty idyllic existence in smalltown America until a couple of gleefully murderous hoods turn up by chance at the eaterie, and an order for coffee escalates to terrorising Tom and his customers. Quick thinking on his part leads to reluctant celebrity – and, still more unwelcome – further visits, from sinister wise guys hinting that Tom may not be quite the clean-cut Ordinary Joe he says he is. Besides playing fast and loose (in the most elegantly rigorous way, of course) with family-under-siege thriller conventions, Cronenberg deftly undermines narrative expectations by implying that happy families may in fact be forms of imprisonment, and that trying to conform to an American way may involve lying to ourselves and others about the very human capacity for monstrosity. Here, as a repressed past erupts with a vengeance, violence begets violence, and safe, traditional ethics are swiftly revealed as virtually irrelevant. All this is executed with Cronenberg’s now customarily brilliant wit, bravura style and perfect pacing, not to mention peak-form performances from a superb cast that memorably includes William Hurt and Ed Harris. Unlike the tough but unremarkable pulp fiction of the original graphic novel, the film (which differs from the book in numerous important respects) succeeds not only in terms of action and suspense but as cautionary fable, historical allegory, social satire and moral disquisition. In short, it’s marvellous, and up there with ‘Spider’ as Cronenberg’s very best work.” – Time Out (London)

  • Country USA/Germany
  • Rating R
  • Year 2005
  • Running Time 96 minutes
  • Director David Cronenberg

IFC Center does not generally provide advisories about subject matter or potentially triggering content in films, as sensitivities vary from person to person. In addition to the synopses, trailers and other links on our website, further information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and DoesTheDogDie.com as well as through general internet searches.