A History of Violence

Bomb Rating: 

The only Canadian I want trying to tell me about violence in America is one who's been shot at.

Anybody up on their weird, idiosyncratic directors should recognize a strong relationship between this film and "Blue Velvet", directed by David Lynch. It's not so much that the films are identical in their stories, but that both directors examine small town life, hidden secrets, and how the fa´┐Żade of perfection and simplicity often belies moral ambiguity at best and moral turpitude at worst.

However, there is an essential difference between Lynch and the director of this film, David Cronenberg. David Lynch is from Mizzoula, Montana, which is an actual American small town. David Cronenberg is from Toronto, which is a big city in Canada. Clearly, one of these directors has some actual authority to speak about small towns in America while the other one is a lame-ass Canadian who secretly wishes he could be a true American. Canada is a place where they leave their doors unlocked and they pay out the ass for health care. The only Canadian I want trying to tell me about violence in America is one who's been shot at. Cronenberg needs to stick to subjects he knows about, like bad coffee, restaurants with crappy service, whining, socialism, country envy, and all that other shit Canadians know a lot about.

I suppose that, as Cronenberg gets older, we can expect more crap like this from him. Formerly known as a director of disturbing horror pictures, age and laziness have apparently caught up with Cronenberg and he's moved into this metaphorical death phase where it's much more interesting to make boring parables. To wit: The two teenage boys sitting behind me, having spent the whole movie waiting to be grossed out, had this to say when the credits rolled: "That was the worst ending I've ever seen." Why? Because it has no resolution. It's one of those "here, YOU figure out what it all means" endings. Maybe that's how they do it in Canada, but here in the U.S. you're supposed to tell us what it means. Canadians are so fucking obtuse.

The questions being asked in "A History of Violence" are pretty simple: Can a man leave his violent past behind? Answer: no. Is violence an actual solution to some problems? Answer: yes. Can we or should we accept violence as a means to an end? Answer: Sometimes we have no other choice. In the film, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) runs a little diner in a small town and is happily married. However, after preventing a robbery in such a way as to raise questions about his past, Tom attracts the attention of an East coast gangster (Ed Harris), who claims Tom is really Joey Cusack, a mob hitman. This leaves Tom's wife (Maria Bello) and son (Ashton Holmes) dumbfounded. Is Tom a simple, non-violent loving husband and father, or is he a stone cold killer?

Cronenberg continues mulling over many of the same themes he's mulled over in previous movies. I got the links between sex and violence in "Crash," so when Tom and Edie get it on after a huge fight, I'm thinking that I already saw this in a previous movie. Indeed, I had.

"A History of Violence" made me mad enough to hurt somebody.

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