Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Movie Mini Review: A History of Violence

Title: A History of Violence


Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt

Plot summary:
Tom Stall (Mortensen), the quiet down-to-earth owner of a small town diner, is thrust into the limelight when he foils a robbery/murder attempt in his diner with some quick thinking and even quicker pistol play. But the attention draws some not-so-savory characters to the diner who think they know Stall from a previous life.

My thoughts:
This is another one of those movies I wanted to see in the theater but was unable to because I'm an old geezer with job and family ties that keep me from doing anything fun (not really).

But unlike with The Life Aquatic, after seeing finally A History of Violence I'm not disappointed that I missed the "opportunity" so shell out $30 bucks to see it in the theater.

The premise is the film is great: Why would a mild-mannered small-town family man be so good at killing people. Did he just have one of those "heroic" moments when you just react without thinking and save the day? Or is there something sinister in his past, something that mob captain Carl Fogerty (Ed Harris) knows about and is keen to repay Stall for.

For about half the movie, the director keeps you guessing about who's telling the truth. Is it Fogerty, and Stall is really a reformed hit-man trying to get out of "the life"? Or is Stall telling the truth and it's all a case of mistaken identity.

The acting is solid (the main characters are played by journeymen actors) and the photography is pretty darn good. The violence in most cases is real enough to be shocking, but not so gratuitous as to be distracting. But I think the director missed opportunities in the that could have added layers of interest to the story.

For one thing, there was a superficial look at what happens to the erstwhile wimpy son who suddenly nuts up to the school bullies when his dad becomes a hero. I think a deeper examination of this character could have been satisfying.

And there are some scenes that just plain don't make sense, like the love/rape scene on the wooden stairs of the family home. Or the final scene when Stall returns home to the family dinner table after going on a killing spree and sits down without saying a word.

But the movie falls apart for me midway through, when it is blatantly revealed that Stall is in fact a hit man, brother of a Philadelphia mob boss who has put a price on his head. From there, the movie becomes the predictable "I gotta kill all my enemies or never live in peace" action flick.

I can't help but think that it would have been smarter to never clarify whether Stall was actually the mob guy, but have him kill the mobsters anyway.

So, I rank this movie "Good to watch on TV, but glad I didn't pay to see it."

Favorite quote:
"Any last words before I blow your brains out you miserable prick?"

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  1. I loved Ed Harris in this. Definitely NOT John Glenn.

    It was nice to be able to appreciate Viggo in something other than LOTR.

    This was the first thing I've like William Hurt in in a long time. MUCH better than Lost In Space.

    The stair scene made me wish I understood makeup sex. Because I don't.

    And I thought the ending was PERFECT. Ambiguity.

    Great fucking movie.

  2. I agree XO, I like ambiguity in a plotline (like, what the heck was that thing in the trunk of the car in Repo Man).

    I just think this movie would have been better if the ambiguity was around a central plot device, rather than a meaningless scene at the end of the movie.

  3. I don't know.

    Having undergone an incredibly tumultuous, emotional upheaval (but without any blood or violence) at the end of my last marriage, I can completely understand the Big Question Mark at the end of the movie.

    Can we get through this together?

    That's a huge fucking question that doesn't deserve a simplistic Hollywood ending.

    Did they make it, or didn't they?

    We don't know.


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