October 1, 2005

A History of Violence

They say one of the three basic stories is the "stranger comes to town story". A History Of Violence is one of those stories, but told with a fresh layer of uncertainty and creepiness by David Cronenberg: what if The Stranger who comes to town is the local you know best? This protagonist is Tom Stall, an ordinary, average, Middle-American dad, with an ordinary wife and two kids, performed with heaps of plain-faced honesty and goodwill by Viggo Mortensen. The most excitement in his life is when his wife gets rid of the kids for the evening for a night of hanky-panky.

When Ed Harris (in the same diehard bastard mode as A Beautiful Mind) shows up in town, we start to wonder: Who is the Stranger In Town? Harris, or Mortensen? It is so refreshing to watch a movie where you really don't know what to expect around every corner. This film could have been so ordinary with another director and lead actor, but Cronenberg and Mortensen keep the audience off-balance for the duration. The violence in Violence is not gratuitous, but unflinching in a classically Cronenberg manner. (Church St, Harvard Square)