Monday, March 13, 2006
A History of Violence
I've been looking forward to seeing this movie ever since I read Kapreles's review of it way back in October(?) last year. That was a long time ago! But at last it is showing in Australian cinemas so today after work I zoomed off to see it.
It begins in a small midwestern American town that reminded me very much of Northern Exposure's Cicely (Alaska) where you walk down the street and everybody says 'Hi!' to you real friendly and right neighbourly, and you say "Hi!" back, big smiles all round, everybody happy and smiling, a perfect Utopia. You don't need to lock your car when you go to the video store, you don't even need to lock your front door when you go home. Imagine that! It's not easy for a city boy! But that's the kind of town Tom Stalls (Viggo Mortensen) lives in, with his wife Edie (Maria Bello), son Jack and daughter Heidi.
The beginning of the movie serves to show us what a perfect life this family have in this perfect town, although things are really not so perfect even from the beginning. We soon learn that teenage son Jack is being bullied at his high school by a football jerk. Or is it jock? ... What's the difference?
Tom owns a diner and one night two nasty men come in just when Tom's closing up. We know these are nasty men because a little earlier we saw them leaving a motel and one of them killed the proprietor and maid. This is how they "settle up the bill", apparently. These two are very nasty men, anyway. So here they are in Tom's diner and even though Tom tells them they're closed, they loudly demand to be served. Everybody in the diner looks around nervously. The scene gets even uglier when one of the bad guys tells the other one to "do" the waitress, then he whips out his gun and says he's gonna teach Tom a lesson for being such a tough guy, or something. Tom turns the tables on the fiends before they know what the hell is going on, and very soon both are dead, or at least almost dead, because one of them is seen trying to move his head with half his jaw missing, a very amusing scene which got big laughs in our theatre (*a note on this later).
All of a sudden Tom is a big hero and on the front cover of the local newspaper, and TV crews are coming to his house to try to interview him.
Then three other tough dudes arrive in town and pay a visit to Tom, in his diner, but the leader calls him "Joey". WTF? He seems to know him. Is this a case of mistaken identity? Ho ho! Not likely!
Anyway, to say much more about the plot would be unfair, you really want to see this for yourself.
I've only seen Viggo Mortensen in The Lord of the Rings, and he was terrific in that. He was very good in this, too, as was Maria Bello (who I last saw in The Cooler, another fine movie with another fine actor, William H. Macy). Ed Harris and William Hurt were in it as well, and they were both wonderful, playing bad guys, the latter in a very violent yet comedic scene near the end of the movie.
The music used in the movie, although mixed at too low a volume for my liking, was perfect and served to build mood and tension in an elegiac, classical style.
The movie was directed by David Cronenberg, so if that name rings bells in your head, in a good way (as it does in mine) then you have probably seen it already. If not, you are in for a treat! It is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of his finest.
* A note on the audience: When Tom shot the bad dudes in the diner and the camera panned down to show the head of one, still moving but with half his jaw shot off, I let out a loud guffaw. A second later, somebody several rows behind me did the same, but even louder. It occurred to me that that person was making fun of my response! I do seem to laugh at things in movies where nobody else laughs, and laughing at somebody with his jaw half shot off might be considered offensive. And so many people seem to be overly sensitive to feeling offended these days! But of course I was only laughing because the bad guy got exactly what we wished for him to get (and maybe a little extra), and it turned out that that person probably wasn't making sport of me, because he laughed at other violent scenes, some of which he got in a hearty guffaw before I could!