Thursday, September 29, 2005

A History of Violence

A History of Violence (Director: David Cronenberg)

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE has been nominated for 2 Oscars:

Best Supporting Actor: William Hurt
Adapted Screenplay: Josh Olson

The Canadian Cronenberg is a director much like David Lynch and Terry Gilliam where completely normal everyday life can turn on its head and enter Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, if those movies took place in a serial killer's head. His biggest movie is The Fly, but he has a lot of other recognizable cult flicks like Scanners, The Dead Zone, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, M. Butterfly, and 1996's Crash, which wasn't about racial divides in L.A. but sex and car crashes. He also did the video game craziness of eXistenZ. His last movie was the 2002 Ralph Fiennes mystery Spider. Screenwriter Josh Olson hasn't done anything recognizable but he has a fairly sizable resume since 1998. This is based on the graphic novel from John Wagner and Vince Locke.

When I saw the trailers for this movie, and saw that it was directed by Cronenberg, I was expecting this movie marketed as a normal mystery turn into something completely different by the movie's end, like sci-fi different, even though the previews were saying this was on the level. This movie does take a Cronenbergian turn, but not in the way that is usual for him--it actually pretty much stays on the level. I wouldn't have been surprised if the guns started melding to people's hands, or people's bodies start to flip from the inside-out, or even Viggo Mortensen to suddenly turn into Aragorn.

Tom Stall (Mortensen) is a small cafe owner in a small town in Indiana. He has a beautiful wife (Maria Bello; are you watching, Jessica Alba?) and two kids Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Hayes). Life is bracingly normal. How could it be better? Then, one night, some desperate evildoers come in to rob Stall's place, and before those evildoers know it, they are taken over with lethal precision by Tom, who becomes a local hero. His face is plastered all over the place in the news, which brings more people into his cafe, including some shady figures led by mob boss Carl Fogerty (Ed Harris), who like lots of villains in movies seems to have a case of mistaken identity with Tom. He thinks that Tom is actually Joey Cusack, a man from Philadelphia who killed lots of people, even gave Carl a nasty scar across his left eye with barb wire, blinding it.

Now, where the movie goes from there, I will not say. But I will say that this is, right now, one of my top 5 favorite films of the year. When you've seen the deluge of crap like I have this year, even some mildly amusing movies get your attention. But when this movie methodically and very consciously tells its story, you can tell there are good people behind the camera. As for the people in front of the camera, Viggo Mortensen is the perfect guy to play Tom Stall. I don't know of very many people who have the reputation that he does--very unassuming, very leery of fame, but could have easily gone on to do countless action pictures and romantic comedies and done well. His career has been a quiet twenty years, filled with good work. And Maria Bello, like that crack I made about Jessica Alba--she does more in this movie, in certain scenes, that top all of Alba's work this year.

This is a no-miss movie. It is a little disturbing, so it's not for taking your girlfriend to unless she's jonesing to see it.


At 9/30/2005 01:03:00 PM, Blogger MaraJade said...

I just watched the trailer for this and it looks GOOD.

Why are you comparing Maria to Jessica Alba though? Was she up for the part? Sorry if I'm having a blonde moment and missed it, but I don't get the reference.

At 9/30/2005 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I'm just saying, after watching someone who wants to take herself seriously as an actress (Alba), and watching her fail at every turn, watching someone like Bello might do some good. That's all.

At 10/03/2005 07:59:00 AM, Blogger MaraJade said...

Ah ha.
I do like that actress. Bello, not Alba. Though Alba is "okay".


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