Entertainment Magazine

Secret Life

Posted on the 29 January 2017 by Sjhoneywell
Film: A History of Violence
Format: DVD from personal collection on rockin’ flatscreen. Secret Life I don’t remember how I got my copy of A History of Violence. It was probably from a closing Blockbuster or something similar, though, which means I bought it for cheap because I didn’t own it and heard it was worth seeing. I’m also not sure why I’ve never gotten around to it before now. I think it’s because I often don’t look to my collection for this blog because I know I can watch those whenever I want, and I don’t know that I’ll always have access to other films. But I like David Cronenberg as a director and I like a lot of the cast, so I went into this with high hopes.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is an average husband and father living in small town Indiana. Tom runs a local diner and helps his wife Edie (Maria Bello) take care of their kids Jack (Ashton Holmes) and young Sarah (Heidi Hayes). Life seems pretty normal for them, despite Jack having a bully problem in high school. The family is generally happy and things are fine. That is until one day a couple of strangers walk into the diner. These men, Leland (Stephen McHattie) and Billy (Greg Bryk) intend to rob the diner, and based on the short scene at the start of the film, kill everyone inside. Little do they know that Tom Stall has some skills. He smashes one in the face with a coffee pot, comes up with the gun and shoots them both down despite being stabbed through the foot at one point.

Tom’s heroics make him a local celebrity and the nature of the attack and his response gets him a little national press as well. It’s not long after this that Tom Stall is visited by a group of mobsters from Philadelphia. Led by a one-eyed, scarred man named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), the men seem to want Tom to go with them to Philly. They also call him Joey Cusack and attempt to remind him that he once ran with a crew in Philadelphia and was a notorious killer. Tom naturally denies this, but those denials become harder and harder to believe when another incident of violence occurs between Tom/Joey and the men from Philly.

All of this is happening because Tom Stall really is Joey Cusack, and Joey’s brother Richie (William Hurt, nominated for Best Supporting Actor for a role that runs one scene and about 10 minutes), who is still mobbed up, wants revenge for his brother’s actions. This means that the only way to end things is for Tom/Joey to confront his brother and have things out, which means going back to Philadelphia and seeing just what damage was created by Joey before he ditched the life and, as he says, spent three years killing off Joey to become Tom.

In truth, A History of Violence is a pretty standard mob/revenge tale. A guy who was a mad dog killer and who created a lot of enemies for himself has left the life and created a new persona for himself. His past comes back to haunt him because of a random, unpredictable event, and this creates havoc in his life until he gets to the point where his past needs to be dealt with finally. What makes the film interesting is the focus.

A lot of A History of Violence is naturally focused on the mob stuff, and for a movie that runs a touch over 90 minutes, there is a sizable body count, some of which end up with the sort of body trauma that we expect from David Cronenberg’s past history. This is a violent movie in many respects because it kind of has to be. While much of the action necessarily centers on this, the actual focus of the film, the heart of the story, if you will, is about Tom Stall and his family. It’s really about his family’s reaction to his past life. Jack Stall is in high school, meaning that he’s at minimum 14 and there is every indication that he’s pretty close to graduation. This means that Joey Cusack became Tom Stall decades in the past, and he’s hidden this secret from his family for their entire lives. How do you react when you discover that your husband or your father has a dark past and was once someone who admittedly killed for pleasure?

This means that when we’re not dealing with Tom/Joey attempting to clear his past or the sudden moments of intense violence, we’re dealing with a unique domestic drama, and the film handles it well. Maria Bello and Ashton Holmes have to handle the bulk of this, and they do so in opposite and believable ways. Holmes’s Jack lashes out with anger while Bello’s Edie reacts with a complex web of emotions including anger, fear, and disgust. Both of them handle it well, and Bello in particular is believable. Much of the film hinges on Viggo Mortensen’s performance as someone who has had this terrible secret revealed and is still trying to make sense of the life he has created.

My only real issue with A History of Violence is the premise. I buy into a lot of this, but find it stretches the imagination a bit that Joey Cusack could disappear this effectively for this long. Oh, I know Witness Protection is a thing, but Joey evidently did this on his own. It’s on the edge of possibility, I suppose, but that’s where I found myself needing to suspend disbelief.

Why to watch A History of Violence: Stark and spare, with nothing it doesn’t need.
Why not to watch: The premise does stretch the imagination at times.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Mitsubishi A6M3 Reisen (Zero)

    Mitsubishi A6M3 Reisen (Zero)

    @ Camarillo Municipal Airport, CA August 2017 A rare flyable Zero performs a flyby at the Wings Over Camarillo airshow.  This aircraft was recovered from New... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Htam
    PHOTOGRAPHY, SOCIETY
  • 8 Ways To Instill A Sense Of Purpose In Your Startup

    Ways Instill Sense Purpose Your Startup

    Starting a new venture and thriving in today’s economy is hard, but the best have figured out that customers and employees need to feel that you have a sense... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Martin Zwilling
    BUSINESS, CAREER
  • Karakoram Summer 2018: Summits on Broad Peak, Missing Climber Found by Drone

    Karakoram Summer 2018: Summits Broad Peak, Missing Climber Found Drone

    While the teams on K2 sit, wait, and watch the weather, things have been progressing in other parts of the Karakoram. In our last update from the end of last... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: A Second Look

    Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: Second Look

    When I wrote my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale picks post last Thursday I wrote it that day, early in the morning, and it seems during a time when the site was... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Wardrobeoxygen
    FASHION, SELF EXPRESSION, SHOPPING
  • Salmon with Olive-pistachio Tapenade and Tomatoes

    A foolproof trio loaded with flavor: moist and flavorful salmon dressed up with a juicy olive and crunchy pistachio tapenade. This simple, but elegant, dish... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Dietdoctor
    DIET & WEIGHT, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING, MEDICINE
  • Vintage Avon Lady Beauty Tips 1946

    Vintage Avon Lady Beauty Tips 1946

    Simple beauty advice for the 1940s woman – Vintage-Avon-beauty-Tips-1946—the-elbows Elbow Tips: Keep them from getting rough by massaging Night Cream over them... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Glamourdaze
    FASHION, LIFESTYLE
  • Top 10 French Albums

    French Albums

    The FIFA World Cup has come to an end with France being crowned World Champions! To mark the occasions we have compiled the Top 10 French albums of all time.... Read more

    The 16 July 2018 by   Tomatrax
    ENTERTAINMENT, MUSIC

Magazines