New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scene, Trailer
When I first inserted "A History In Violence" in my DVD player I did not know what to expect, really. Then it reads there "A film by David Cronenberg." Okay… I had no idea. I remembered the trailers for the movie I had seen and it never looked like a Cronenberg film to me, but suddenly I became very intrigued. As everyone knows – or should know – of course, David Cronenberg is not your average director or filmmaker. Cronenberg is edgy and daring, often going where others don't dare to tread. And so I prepared myself to experience "A History Of Violence."
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a quiet family man with two children and a beautiful wife (Maria Bello). He runs his own diner in an uneventful small town and has small petty problems like his broken pickup truck.
One day two criminals enter his diner, sit down, and try to rob the diner. As things heat up and one of the men tries to kill Tom's waitress, Tom takes the initiative, disarms one of the robbers and uses his gun to kill both men. Immediately Tom is promoted to town hero. His face is on every news cast and plasters the newspaper front page. But his sudden fame also draws interest from other criminal elements. A few men visit Tom in his diner, claiming to remember him from his "other" life under a different name in a different town. A life as a mafia killer.
Gradually Tom's past comes back to hunt him. A past he left behind 20 years ago. A life he has kept secret from everyone, even his wife. And suddenly he has to face the fact that he has become the target of his own past and that things will not end without bloodshed – one way or another.
"A History In Violence" is an interesting film on many levels. It starts out very slow, showing us Tom's warm, loving and gentle side to establish him as a caring family man and popular part of his community. Things quickly turn into a furious frenzy and a suspenseful thriller when Tom's secret begins to unravel and his past life begins to take over.
Viggo Mortensen is the perfect cast for Tom Stall. With his warm voice and gentle manners he perfectly creates the image Tom Stall, the gentle father and husband. But Mortensen is also easily capable of switching gear within a split second to turn into a killer with lightning-fast reflexes and a trigger finger that never misses its target. But at the same time we can easily see how it pains him having to revert back to his violent ways in order to save himself and his family.
It has been some time since Ed Harris graced us with a stand-out performance, but here he is again, coming through as a slick, disfigured menace. Without too many words, Harris is threatening when he does as little as asking for a cup of coffee. Wonderful performance that is unsettling and edgy every second of his limited screen time.
The rest of the cast put in great performances as well, including Maria Bello and William Hurt, all of which are tangible and full of depth.
"A History In Violence" is a surprisingly accessible film for a David Cronenberg movie – which I do not consider detrimental. The film has Cronenberg's signature and violence there can be no doubt, but it also has a touching human element that is a bit surprising to see from this filmmaker.
New Line has prepared another stellar-looking DVD Version for this release. The image is razor sharp and completely free of blemishes or defects. No speckles or dust are evident and the image has an incredibly high level of definition that reveals even the most minute textures and detail. Colors are absolutely natural and balanced giving the film a very natural look that is never overly stylized. Black levels are deep and solid, creating shadows that give the picture good depth and never break up. No edge-enhancement or compression artifacts distract from the viewing experience.
The audio comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix on the release – a mix that is balanced and active. Subtle at times, aggressive at others, the mix has been crafted very carefully to make sure the audio always helps embellish the imagery. Dialogues are well integrated and are always understandable, never being drowned out by sound effects of the minimalist music.
Being a "Platinum Series" release, New Line has also assembled a number of great extras for the film to add to this DVD. It starts with a great commentary track by David Cronenberg. The director is candid and very open about the film offering a lot of insight into the process of making the movie, but also discussing his general approach to filmmaking. Cronenberg fans will have to check out this commentary track.
Next up is "Acts Of Violence," a making of documentary that takes an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at the production of the movie. Again, it is very candid and offers a wealth of information on the movie's making. Also included are three featurettes, covering aspects, such as differences between the US and the international version of the film, "Too Commercial For Cannes" and "The Unmaking of Scene 44." In the best New Line tradition these featurettes are not only fluff pieces but manage to really discuss their topics and thus add value to the release.
"Scene 44" is a deleted scene that is also included on the release as well as the movie's trailer.
"A History In Violence" is a great film. Like a torrent it takes you from one extreme to another. From the placid family man we are taken on the edge to see the same man turn into a raw killer and back again. It is clearly among Davod Cronenberg's best and most memorable films as he splatters blood over smalltown Americana. Highly recommended!