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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'A History of Violence': A Gripping and Finely Calculated Depiction of One Man's Dark Hidden History

Movie poster for A History of Violence (2005)

A History of Violence (2005) is a gripping thriller starring Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, the unassuming owner of a quaint diner in small-town Indiana. When confronted by a pair of wayward criminals in his restaurant one evening, Tom unexpectedly lashes out with a show of stunning brutality—his act of heroism soon becoming a national news story.

A family man deeply committed to his wife Edie (Maria Bello) and his children Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Hayes), Tom subsequently shies from the unheralded media attention. The nationwide coverage draws gangsters from Philadelphia to his diner, however, with the menacing Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) accusing Tom of masking his true identity as a former gangster named Joey Cusack. Despite Tom's vehement insistence that he is not the reputed criminal, Fogarty viciously intrudes upon Tom's world, insisting that he return to his true home to atone for his disappearance.

Adapted from John Wagner's titular graphic novel by Josh Olson and directed by legendary Canadian horror master David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly), A History of Violence is a visceral tale of hard-fought actualization. Mortensen holds strong as the story's central protagonist, a seemingly good-hearted midwesterner who may or may not harbor the darkest of personal secrets. Cronenberg delivers us into Tom's enigmatic world with a deft hand, lending the best touches of his past genre work to the proceedings—and delivering a stirring tale of ferocity and moral ambiguity.


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