Tom Stall (Mortensen) is living a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife (Bello) and their two children in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana. One night, though, their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner. He takes action and saves his customers and friends in the self-defense killings of two-sought-after criminals. Heralded as a hero, Tom’s life is changed overnight, attracting a national media circus, which forces him into the spotlight. Uncomfortable with his newfound celebrity, Tom tries to return to the normalcy of his ordinary life only to be confronted by a mysterious and threatening man (Ed Harris) who arrives in town believing Tom is the man who’s wronged him in the past. As Tom and his family fight back against this case of supposed mistaken identity and struggle to cope with their changed reality, they are forced to confront their relationships and the divisive issues which surface as a result. A History of Violence is loosely based on the graphic novel by Vince Locke and John Wagner.
In David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, Viggo Mortensen plays Tom Stall, a mild mannered proprietor of a diner in a small Indiana town who becomes a local hero when thwarts a robbery attempt in his diner. For Tom Stall, this new found publicity is a curse, rather than a blessing and brings to the forefront a violent streak that neither his wife, children or friends have ever seen. Days later a scarred mobster played by Ed Harris rolls into town and stops by to say hello to Stall who he claims crossed him years earlier. And within the flash of an eye, it seems, Stall’s past as an east coast mobster is thrust between himself, his family and his small Indiana town. A Hisotory of Violence is, essentially, a study and illustrations of how violence manifests itself in all of us and how people cope with it in various scenarios. Cronenberg masterfully succeeds at at this task and has produced an intellectually and emotionally powerful look at violence while abandoning the Hollywood cliche’s that so many films seems to embrace. Violence is the core of the film and Cronenberg manages to only resort to utilizing visual violence three or four times which results in a uniquely minimal, but still incendiary look at violence. In short, A History of Violence is a beautifully acted and brilliantly directed film and, without doubt, easily one of the best of 2005.
Review by Emma Loggins