A History of Violence

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A History of Violence
History of violence.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Cronenberg
Screenplay byJosh Olson
Based on
Produced byChris Bender
J. C. Spink
Starring
CinematographyPeter Suschitzky
Edited byRonald Sanders
Music byHoward Shore
Production
companies
  • BenderSpink
  • Media I! Filmproduktion München & Company
Distributed by
Release dates
  • May 16, 2005 (2005-05-16) (Cannes)
  • September 23, 2005 (2005-09-23) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
Countries
  • United States
  • Canada[3]
  • Germany[4]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$32 million[5]
Box office$61.4 million[5]

A History of Violence is a 2005 action thriller film directed by David Cronenberg and written by Josh Olson. It is an adaptation of the 1997 graphic novel of the same title by John Wagner and Vince Locke. The film stars Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, and Ed Harris. In the film, when a pair of petty criminals attempt to rob his small-town diner, Tom Stall quickly and easily kills them both. In the flush of news coverage of Tom's seemingly heroic actions, a threatening stranger named Carl Fogarty comes to town, fingering the unassuming family man as long-missing Philadelphia mobster Joey Cusack. To the horror of his wife, Edie, and teenage son, Jack, Tom finds he must confront his violent past.

A History of Violence was in the main competition for the 2005 Palme d'Or, and was put into a limited release in the United States on September 23, 2005, followed by a wide release on September 30, 2005. It is sometimes considered one of the greatest films of the 2000s. The film was specifically praised for its performances, screenplay, atmosphere, and plot. William Hurt was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Olson was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Mortensen himself praised it as "one of the best movies [he's] ever been in, if not the best", also declaring it was a "perfect film noir" or "close to perfect".[6] It is also notable as being one of the last major Hollywood films to be released on VHS.[7]

Plot[edit]

Tom Stall is a diner owner who lives in small-town Indiana with his wife Edie and his children Jack and Sarah. One night, two spree killers enter Tom's restaurant, threaten those inside, and sexually assault one of his employees. Tom deftly kills them and is hailed a hero, while the incident makes national news.

A few days later, Tom is visited by a man named Carl Fogarty, who alleges that Tom is actually Joey Cusack, a former gangster with the Irish mob in Philadelphia. Tom vehemently denies this, but Carl remains persistent and begins to stalk the Stalls. Under pressure, Tom's relationship with Edie, Jack, and Sarah faces continued strain.

Following an argument with Tom over the use of violence at school, Jack runs away, only to be captured and held hostage by Carl. Carl confronts Tom and demands his return to Philadelphia in exchange for his son's release. After Jack is freed, Tom manages to kill Carl's henchmen until Carl shoots him. A wounded Tom drops his façade and manifests his former self, but Jack shoots and kills Carl with a shotgun before he can fight back.

At the hospital, a furious Edie confronts Tom, who admits to being Joey Cusack, revealing that he started a new life to escape his criminal past. Tom becomes further isolated from the rest of his family and the community. One day, Tom receives a phone call from his estranged brother, Richie Cusack, who demands his return.

Returning to Philadelphia, Tom learns that his past actions have delayed Richie's advancement with the Irish mob. Tom offers peace, but Richie orders his men to kill his brother. Tom manages to escape from being strangled to death; he kills the gangsters and confronts Richie before shooting him dead. After returning home to find his family eating dinner, Tom is offered food by Jack and Sarah, signaling his acceptance back into their lives.

Cast[edit]

Source:[8]

Production[edit]

The film is loosely based on the original graphic novel. Screenwriter Josh Olson intended from the beginning to use the original story as a springboard to explore the themes that interested him.

In a 2014 interview, Mortensen said he read Olson's original version of the script and "was quite disappointed. It was 120-odd pages of just mayhem; kind of senseless, really." He only agreed to do the movie after meeting with Cronenberg, who (according to Mortensen) reworked the script.[9]

Most of the film was shot in Millbrook, Ontario. The shopping centre scene was shot in Tottenham, Ontario, and the climactic scene was shot at the historic Eaton Hall Mansion, located in King City, Ontario.[10] Harrison Ford turned down the role of Tom Stall.[11]

Alternate versions[edit]

The U.S. and European versions differ on only two fight scenes - one where Tom breaks the nose of one of Fogarty's thugs and one where he stomps on the throat of one of Richie Cusack's thugs. Both scenes display more blood flowing or gushing out of the victims in the European version. In addition, a more pronounced bone-crushing sound effect is used when Tom stomps on the thug's throat.[12]

A deleted scene, known as "Scene 44", features a dream sequence in the diner, where Fogarty tells Tom he will kill his family and him, to which Tom responds by shooting him with his shotgun at close range. He then approaches Fogarty's mangled body, which raises a gun and shoots him.[13] In the DVD extras' on-set footage, Mortensen suggests Harris should pull the gun from his chest cavity. Cronenberg, while amused by the idea, rejects it for being too self-referential; he cites a sequence in his film Videodrome, in which a character pulls a handgun from a slit in his stomach.

Interpretation[edit]

The film's title plays on multiple levels of meaning. Film critic Roger Ebert stated that Cronenberg refers to three possibilities:

... (1) a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope. "I am a complete Darwinian", says Cronenberg, whose new film is in many ways about the survival of the fittest—at all costs.[14]

Cronenberg himself described the film as a meditation on the human body and its relationship to violence:

For me the first fact of human existence is the human body. I'm not an atheist, but for me to turn away from any aspect of the human body to me is a philosophical betrayal. And there's a lot of art and religion whose whole purpose is to turn away from the human body. I feel in my art that my mandate is to not do that. So whether it's beautiful things—the sexuality part, or the violent part or the gooey part—it's just body fluids. It's when Elliott in Dead Ringer (sic) says, "Why are there no beauty contests for the insides of bodies?" It's a thought that disturbs me. How can we be disgusted by our own bodies? That really doesn't make any human sense. It makes some animal sense but it doesn't make human sense so I'm always discussing that in my movies and in this movie in particular. I don't ever feel that I've been exploitive in a crude, vulgar way, or just doing it to get attention. It's always got a purpose which I can be very articulate about. In this movie, we've got an audience that's definitely going to applaud these acts of violence and they do because it's set up that these acts are justifiable and almost heroic at times. But I'm saying, "Okay, if you can applaud that, can you applaud this?" because this is the result of that gunshot in the head. It's not nice. And even if the violence is justifiable, the consequences of the violence are exactly the same. The body does not know what was the morality of that act. So I'm asking the audience to see if they can contain the whole experience of this violent act instead of just the heroic/dramatic one. I'm saying "Here's the really nasty effects on these nasty guys but still, the effects are very nasty." And that's the paradox and conundrum."[15]

Music[edit]

The soundtrack to A History of Violence was released on October 11, 2005.

No.TitleArtistLength
1."Motel"Howard Shore3:11
2."Tom"Howard Shore1:31
3."Cheerleader"Howard Shore1:59
4."Diner"Howard Shore1:51
5."Hero"Howard Shore2:42
6."Run"Howard Shore2:26
7."Violence"Howard Shore3:13
8."Porch"Howard Shore4:17
9."Alone"Howard Shore1:37
10."The staircase"Howard Shore2:44
11."The Road"Howard Shore3:06
12."Nice Gate"Howard Shore3:15
13."The Return"Howard Shore4:39
14."Ending"Howard Shore3:48
Total length:40:19[16]

Release[edit]

Theatrical[edit]

A History of Violence premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2005, and was released in the United States on September 30 following a successful limited release on September 23, 2005.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and VHS formats on March 14, 2006,[17] and was reported by the Los Angeles Times as being the last major Hollywood film to be released on VHS.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film started with a limited release in 14 theaters and grossed $515,992 at the box office, averaging $36,856 per theater. A week later, it went on a wide release in 1,340 theaters and grossed $8,103,077 in its opening weekend. During its entire theatrical run, the film grossed $31,504,633 in the United States and $60,334,064 worldwide.[5]

Critical response[edit]

The film received widespread acclaim from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 87% based on 215 critics' reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website's consensus reads, "A History of Violence raises compelling and thoughtful questions about the nature of violence, while representing a return to form for director David Cronenberg in one of his more uncharacteristic pieces."[18] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 81 out of 100, based on 37 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[19] It was ranked the best film of 2005 in the Village Voice Film Poll.[20] Empire named the film the 448th-greatest film of all time.[21] The French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma ranked the film as 5th place in its list of best films of the decade 2000–2009.[22] However, audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers gave the film four stars, highlighting its "explosive power and subversive wit", and lauded David Cronenberg as a "world-class director, at the top of his startlingly creative form".[24] Entertainment Weekly reviewer Lisa Schwarzbaum gave the film an A, concluding that "David Cronenberg's brilliant movie" was "without a doubt one of the very best of the year".[25] Manohla Dargis of The New York Times called the film a "mindblower", and noted Cronenberg's "refusal to let us indulge in movie violence without paying a price".[26] Roger Ebert also gave the film a very positive review, observing, "A History of Violence seems deceptively straightforward, coming from a director with Cronenberg's quirky complexity, but think again. This is not a movie about plot, but about character." He gave it 3+12 stars (out of 4).[14]

In December 2005, it was named to the Toronto International Film Festival's annual Canada's top-ten list of the year's best Canadian films.[27]

In his list of best films of the decade, Peter Travers named this number four, praising director David Cronenberg:

Is Canadian director David Cronenberg the most unsung maverick artist in movies? Bet on it ... Cronenberg knows violence is wired into our DNA. His film showed how we secretly crave what we publicly condemn. This is potent poison for a thriller, and unadulterated, unforgettable Cronenberg.[28]

BBC film critic Mark Kermode named the film the best of 2005.[citation needed]

In 2016, the film was ranked among the 100 greatest films since 2000 in an international critics' poll by 177 critics around the world.[29]

Accolades[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[30] Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
American Film Institute Awards[31] Top 10 Movie of the Year Won
Austin Film Critics Association Awards[32] Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Won
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Maria Bello Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Runner-up
Best Cinematography Peter Suschitzky Nominated
Best Original Score Howard Shore Nominated
Belgian Film Critics Association Awards[33] Grand Prix David Cronenberg Nominated
Bodil Awards[34] Best American Film Won
British Academy Film Awards[35] Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
Cahiers du Cinéma (2005) Top 10 Film David Cronenberg 2nd Place
Cahiers du Cinéma (2010) Best Film of the 2000s 5th Place
Cannes Film Festival[36] Palme d'Or Nominated
Central Ohio Film Critics Association Awards[37] Best Film 2nd Place
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Won
César Awards[38] Best Foreign Film David Cronenberg Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards[39] Best Film Nominated
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Won
Best Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards[40] Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Nominated
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture 8th Place
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film David Cronenberg Nominated
Directors Guild of Canada Awards[41] Outstanding Feature Film Won
Outstanding Direction – Feature Film David Cronenberg Won
Outstanding Picture Editing – Feature Film Ronald Sanders Won
Outstanding Production Design – Feature Film Carol Spier Nominated
Outstanding Sound Editing – Feature Film Alastair Gray and Michael O'Farrell Won
Edgar Allan Poe Awards[42] Best Motion Picture Screenplay Josh Olson (screenplay);
John Wagner and Vince Locke (graphic novel)
Nominated
Empire Awards Best Thriller Nominated
Best Actor Viggo Mortensen Nominated
French Syndicate of Cinema Critics Awards Best Foreign Film David Cronenberg Won
Gold Derby Film Awards[43] Best Motion Picture Chris Bender, David Cronenberg and J.C. Spink Nominated
Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[44] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Maria Bello Nominated
Golden Schmoes Awards[45] Best Supporting Actress of the Year Won
Gotham Independent Film Awards[46] Best Feature David Cronenberg, Chris Bender and J.C. Spink Nominated
Hollywood Legacy Awards Writer of the Year Josh Olson Won
International Cinephile Society Awards[47] Top 10 Films of the Year 3rd Place
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Runner-up
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Runner-up
International Film Music Critics Association Awards[48] Best Original Score for a Horror/Thriller Film Howard Shore Won
International Online Cinema Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Best Actor Viggo Mortensen Nominated
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
Italian Online Movie Awards Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards[49] Best Supporting Actress Won
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards[50] Best Picture 5th Place
London Film Critics Circle Awards[51] Film of the Year Nominated
Director of the Year David Cronenberg Nominated
Actor of the Year Viggo Mortensen Nominated
Actress of the Year Maria Bello Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards[52] Best Film Runner-up
Best Director David Cronenberg Runner-up
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Won
National Board of Review Awards[53] Top Ten Films 5th Place
National Society of Film Critics Awards[54] Best Film 2nd Place
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Best Supporting Actor Ed Harris Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[55] Best Film Runner-up
Best Director David Cronenberg Runner-up
Best Actor Viggo Mortensen Runner-up
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Won
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Won
North Texas Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Won
Online Film & Television Association Awards[56] Best Picture Chris Bender, David Cronenberg and J.C. Spink Nominated
Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
Best Film Editing Ronald Sanders Nominated
Best Casting Mark Bennett and Deirdre Brown Nominated
Best Cinematic Moment Stair Scene Nominated
Best Official Film Website Nominated
Online Film Critics Society Awards[57] Best Picture Won
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maria Bello Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Josh Olson Nominated
Best Editing Ronald Sanders Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards Best Editing Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Film David Cronenberg Won
Satellite Awards (2005)[58] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Viggo Mortensen Nominated
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Maria Bello Nominated
Satellite Awards (2006)[59] Outstanding Overall DVD Nominated
Saturn Awards[60] Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated
Best Actor Viggo Mortensen Nominated
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Nominated
Scream Awards Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Most Heroic Performance Viggo Mortensen Nominated
The "Holy Sh!t"/"Jump-From-Your-Seat" Award The diner shootout Nominated
SESC Film Festival Best Foreign Film (Audience Award) David Cronenberg Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards[61] Best Picture 5th Place
St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards[62] Best Film Won
Best Canadian Film Won
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film 3rd Place
USC Scripter Awards[63] Josh Olson (screenwriter);
John Wagner and Vince Locke (authors)
Nominated
Utah Film Critics Association Awards[64] Best Actress Maria Bello Runner-up
Best Supporting Actor William Hurt Nominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards[65] Best Director David Cronenberg Nominated
Village Voice Film Poll Best Film Won
Best Director David Cronenberg Won
Best Lead Performance Viggo Mortensen 7th Place
Best Supporting Performance Maria Bello Won
Ed Harris 8th Place
Wiiliam Hurt 5th Place
Best Screenplay Josh Olson 3rd Place
Writers Guild of America Awards[66] Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Young Artist Awards[67] Best Performance in a Feature Film – Young Actress Age Ten or Younger Heidi Hayes Nominated

References[edit]

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External links[edit]