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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

David Cronenberg's A History of Violence

Viggo Mortensen can still kick ass even if he's not Aragorn in A History of Violence

When I was in the cinema, many people snickered and giggled during the two much-talked about sex scenes of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and some wincing and groaning during the second staircase one. I felt that the scenes were pretty over-the-top, but someone in IMDB justified the scenes like this in reply to someone who made a remark similar to mine (and that the sex scenes were entirely unnecessary and slowed down the pacing of the film):

"Obviously you didn't get the meaning behind the scene on the stairs at all. Or with Edie's own history, for that matter. Hers was A History of Sex, as clearly evident with the cheerleading escapade and "we didn't get to know each other as kids" scene. She had a past that was driven by sex and this was parallel with his of violence. Finally the two pasts of the characters caught up with them and collide in a scene of raw honesty, passion and need. These characters used what they knew to connect with one another and then hope for the possibility of a new life together that was true and impenetrable. This Film was Freaking Brilliant in Everyway Possible. Sorry that you have such a Garbage Screenwriting Prof. Sounds like he could use some more schooling. Sex is necessary. It is part of the human condition and the driving force behind many lives. To deny it would be untrue to the spirit of what makes us alive."
Sure. Okay. I guess this is one of those movies where people can interpret in many different ways.

As for me, I just think of this movie (an adaptation of a graphic novel) as a pretty cool thriller/action movie which seems to be more realistic than your usual stuff. Viggo Mortensen, who rocked as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, plays Tom Stall, an owner of a diner a small peaceful town. Tom's a normal guy, a great husband to lawyer Edie Stall (Maria Bello) and loving father to Jack and Sarah. He lived a pretty normal life, until he killed two robbers during an attempted robbery in his diner. Tom was turned into an overnight national hero by the media.

But then, shady, dangerous men from the Philadelphia Mafia led by Fogarty (ED HARRIS!) began visiting Tom and family, calling Tom by another name, Joey, claiming that it was Tom/Joey who left him disfigured twenty years ago. That endangered the entire family. Was Forgarty just some crazy old guy? Or mild-mannered Tom actually did have a shady past kept hidden from his family all these while? Will the family crumble while facing such adversity?

Well, I'm trying to keep this review spoiler-free, but many could say that the film's pretty predictable, and the plot twists weren't the highlights of the film, but the examination of the characters. Yet when some revelations were revealed, some members of the audiences gasped loudly. Yet I still think this is an action movie/thriller that is rather unlike others you see from Hollywood. A generic action hero would've been embraced by his family, his heroics and superhuman feat would have been taken for granted by those around him, yet things are different in 'A History of Violence'. By turning into an unlikely hero, everything around Tom started crumbling. Edie, usually cool and composed, started suspecting her husband and believed Forgarty's accusations, whilst Jack began attacking his high school bullies in return (my flatmate and I cheered during that scene). Think Spy Kids, but imagine that instead of being excited and diving into their own adventures to save their parents after learning that their parents are top spies, the two kids began questioning everything they have believed in the past, and became more and more depressed about their parents' identities, until ultimately, they coudn't trust their parents anymore. Yeah, something like that. Imagine the characters in The Incredibles being just as depressed because of the same situation.

Viggo Mortensen is still a cool as Aragorn in A History of ViolenceMy untrained mind is incapable of looking into the deep social meaning behind A History Of Violence (or maybe I'm just lazy), hence I only think of it as an action movie/thriller with character drama and realism. The action scenes were pretty intense and violent, and got some mixed reactions from people in the cinema. My flatmate and I cheered and went 'whooooaaa!', while some middle-aged woman beside me gasped and said something like 'I'm feeling sick, this is too graphic, I can't bear to watch'. This film explores a mixture of human emotions, of people facing a conflict between love and hate, of tasting the glory of being a hero, and then facing the ugly consequences, of watching an idyllic family falling apart because of circumstances beyond their control. So yeah, all kinds of conflicts, thus the different kinds of emotions it can generate from its audiences.

You'll be surprised by the different kinds of reviews for this movie. Here are some for you to check out: David Lowery's Review | Amit Tripuraneni's Review | The Tower Library's Review |