Saturday, October 01, 2005

Revenge Served Hot

Revenge may be a meal served best cold – as William Shakespeare advised -- but in “A History of Violence” it’s dished out hot and heavy. And, where movies of this kind are concerned, that’s not a bad thing. Most of us can’t help enjoying a well-made film where evildoers get their comeuppance.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a quiet man who loves his family and gets satisfaction from serving customers at his diner in a small town, becomes a hero when he kills two thugs who terrorize his establishment one evening. The publicity Tom receives backfires, and his past catches up with him. This “quiet man” is soon forced to take more drastic action to protect his family and himself.

Directed by David Cronenberg (“Spider”), “A History of Violence” emerges as a riveting character study of a man who has reinvented himself in order to live a normal life, but who suddenly faces a situation that requires his old violent way of responding. Mortensen (“Hidalgo”) is marvelous in this lead role. He’s completely convincing as gentle, average Tom, and then -- with unexpected flashes of brutal action -- he makes us believe he’s someone else entirely. Providing outstanding support are Maria Bello (“The Cooler”) as Tom’s confused wife, Ashton Holmes (“A Million Miles to Sunshine”) as his intelligent but wary son, Ed Harris (“The Hours”) as a disfigured man from his past, and William Hurt (“The Village”) in a brilliant cameo you won’t be able to forget.

Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone (“The Godfather III”) complained, “Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in.” Could such be the fate of anyone with a history of violence? Maybe not, but this disturbing and spellbinding film (based on John Wagner and Vince Locke’s impressive graphic novel) makes one wonder.


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