A masterpiece of indirection and pure visceral thrills, David Cronenberg's latest mindblower, "A History of Violence," is the feel-good, feel-bad movie of the year. The story of a seemingly average American family almost undone by cataclysmic violence, the film takes place in a surreal and mercilessly brutal land, Anytown, U. The great kick of the movie -- or rather, its great kick in the gut -- comes from Mr. Cronenberg's refusal to let us indulge in movie violence without paying a price. The man wants to make us suffer, exquisitely. Cronenberg also wants us to have a good time, and it's this tension between cinematic pain and pleasure that helps make "A History of Violence" such a sensational moviegoing experience.
From the Chicago Reader September 30, The last illustration, incidentally, is from the graphic novel that this film is based on. Tom Stall Viggo Mortensen is a happy family man running a diner in idyllic small-town Indiana, with a lawyer wife Maria Bello , a teenage son Ashton Holmes , and a little girl Heidi Hayes. One night he responds so deftly and definitively to the violent threats of two killers that he becomes a local hero. Is A History of Violence a popular genre movie, soliciting visceral, unthinking responses to its violence while evoking westerns and noirs? Or is it an art film, reflecting on the meaning, implications, and effects of its violence, and getting us to do the same?
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As illustrated by Vince Locke, A History of Violence looks furious and unstable even in its design, a scratchy black-and-white view of a small Midwest town that erupts with violence one fateful night. The characters occasionally look incomplete in composition; patches of inky black are broken up by numerous small gaps of white. On the whole, the entire graphic novel, which was published in by Paradox Press and, later, Vertigo — both imprints of DC — looked like a studied sketch of the events that writer John Wagner had laid out.