A History of Violence


Release Date: 2005
Director: David Cronenberg
Running Time: 96 minutes
Cast: William Hurt, Stephen McHattie, Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ashton Holmes
Comic Artist: John Wagner
First Appearance: A History of Violence (1997)


The original graphic novel was a terrific read, sucking the reader in until the climax - which was pure horror. Wonderful stuff! John Wagner is probably better known for his work on Judge Dredd in 2000 AD.


A masterpiece of indirection and pure visceral thrills, David Cronenberg's latest mindblower is the feel-good, feel-bad movie of the year. The story of a seemingly average American family almost undone by cataclysmic violence, the film takes place in a surreal and mercilessly brutal land, Anytown, U.S.A., that has been repeatedly soaked in blood only to be repeatedly washed clean. The great kick of the movie — or rather, its great kick in the gut — comes from Mr. Cronenberg's refusal to let us indulge in movie violence without paying a price. The man wants to make us suffer, exquisitely. Mr. Cronenberg also wants us to have a good time, and it's this tension between cinematic pain and pleasure that helps make "A History of Violence" such a sensational moviegoing experience.

Loosely adapted by Josh Olson from the 1997 graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, the film, which hinges on an upstanding citizen and reluctant mystery man (brilliantly played by Viggo Mortensen), takes it as an article of faith that we, the multiplex allegiant, have been long-reared on the ways and means, giddyups and brutalizing downs of the action movie. To which Mr. Cronenberg quietly says, "Oh, yeah?"

©Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

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