"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

DVD Review: A History of Violence

After finishing watching A History of Violence, I was left with the question of did I like it? Did I not like it? It was one of those movies where I couldn't make up my mind as soon as it was over. But I have decided for the former and here is why.

Though A History of Violence has a good story, interesting characters, and good acting, it suffers from poor pacing and directing. Sluggish most of the time, it then throws in a few moments of graphic violence and sex as if to remind me why I am watching a movie with such a title. It almost tries to hard to focus on the 'violence' of the film, while sacrificing other elements of story telling.

Tom Stall (played by Viggo Mortensen) is an average American living in an average American town in the heartland of Indiana. He has a devoted wife (Maria Bello), and two average kids named Jack and Sarah. Their lives are normal and rather easy going as most people's lives are in small American towns.

Then, one day, everything changes. After preventing a robbery and killing two thieves, Tom Stall becomes an 'American Hero'. Though he tries to shy away from such titles, the sudden fame brings up a past 'Tom' wants to desperately forget about in the form of three strangers dressed in dark suits who follow the orders of Mr. Fogarty (the always welcomed Ed Harris) who arrive and only refer to him as 'Joey'. It is then that the problems begin for A History of Violence.

Though the movie does not fall into the typical 'action' movie ideal where the good guy immediately kills all the bad guys, the story sudden stalls (no pun intended) and almost comes to a complete halt. I was treated to vague threats and hints of a past of 'Tom' that are the supposed crux of this movie but really don't go anywhere. Oh, and Jack ends up beating the two bullies harassing him. Can't forget that part, can I?

After a threat made to Jack on his own property, 'Tom' reverts to his 'Joey' alter ego and kills two of the dangerous men while Jack does away with Mr. Fogarty himself. In doing so, Tom reveals to his family who he really is and there is no escaping that reality. If this were the end of the movie, then there would be a solid conclusion for A History of Violence.

Instead, the story drives forward with a final confrontation with Richie Cusak (William Hurt), the brother Joey Cusak has been running from for all these years. More graphic killing (as the tile of the movie implies) and then, quite literally, the movie ends with Joey returning to his family in time for an uncomfortable dinner.

I had high hopes for this movie but the above mentioned slow pacing and poor direction ruined any real affect it could of had. What could have been an interesting story of a man being forced to face his past and how has instead becomes slow and pondering and filled with rather bad 'Philly' accents. I blame this on the director. Direction, or lack of, is what prevented this movie from being as enjoyable as it should.

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