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A History of Violence [Blu-ray] [Edizione: Francia]
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A History of Violence, 1 Blu-ray, 96 minutes
Parce qu'au cours d'un braquage, Tom Stall a abattu les deux malfrats qui menaçaient la vie des employés de son restaurant et celle de ses clients, il est désormais acclamé en héros et son aventure s'étale à la une de tous les médias. Alors qu'il essaie de retrouver une vie normale loin des feux de l'actualité, un certain Carl Fogarty débarque, convaincu d'avoir reconnu en Tom celui avec qui il a eu autrefois de violents démêlés. Tom aura beau nier, désormais, Fogarty et ses hommes le traquent. Face à la menace, Tom et les siens vont devoir se battre...
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Cattivi macchiettistici più che nei poliziotteschi italiani anni '70, che non aspettano altro che di fare figure idiote durante l'interminabile svolgimento del "film".
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Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and wife Edie (Maria Bello) live in a small mid-western town with teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and young daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes). The couple own, and Tom manages, a diner on Main Street. One night at closing, two psychopathic killers enter the eatery to rob the place and have some bloody fun. (We know they're psychopaths because the film's opening sequence shows them brutally murdering a family that owns a roadside motel.) As his waitress is about to be raped, Tom reacts in a way that would make Dirty Harry proud. The killers are rendered dead in pools of blood, coffee, and broken glass, and Tom, with his foot impaled by a knife, becomes a local hero that makes the national TV news. However, this notoriety draws out of the woodwork a scarred, Mafia hit man from Philadelphia, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), and a pair of associate thugs. Carl insists to Tom and Edie that the former is really Joey Cusack, a big city killer that tried to take out Carl's left eye with barbed wire. Tom, of course, denies that he's ever been to Philly. Edie believes her husband. At least she does until witnessing his reaction when Fogarty et al confront Tom on their front lawn after they kidnap Jack. Maybe Hubby has secrets, you think?
At first, the audience believes that son Jack is a spineless wimp - until he's pushed too far in the hallway of his high school by a bully that's been tormenting him. (Is there an inheritable gene for mayhem, you might ask.) From all of us who've had sand kicked in our faces, way to go, kid! Even Edie isn't as turned off by violence as much as the thought that Tom has been lying to her all their married life. Indeed, an angry confrontation between the two escalates to a bout of consensual, frenzied sex that, while perhaps not "rough", was certainly uncomfortable and left bruises. (Is sex but low-level violence much as James Coburn's character in the 1967 comedy western WATERHOLE #3 called sex "assault with a friendly weapon"?)
Despite Tom's evident past, he's now a loving, committed father and husband and a solid, law abiding member of the community. OK, so he has a few lapses into old habits; they're all for good causes. As the very last scene infers, perhaps Edie can live with it. After all, she and her Hearth and Home are more stoutly defended by Tom's darker side than by some pacifist that wouldn't act until it's too late; other tribes should be so lucky.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is a gritty, well-acted, visual essay that neither condones nor condemns the potential for violence that exists in all of us. It's just there waiting in the tall grass to be called forth as needed, and there's no anguished, PC-inspired, hand-wringing about that fact. It's not the greatest film of 2005, but I liked it very much.
These two actors are amazing the film, especially Bello, who deserves to become a household name. Their intereactions are always spot on as they drive the plot. The sideways glance, the tense look, the loving smile: every part means something.
These two characters are madly in love after seventeen or such years of marriage, and we see it through different ways. The first half of the movie is there to set up their relationship and the love they feel. But then everything is turned upside down, and we realize that these two people who have shared everything and love one another dearly really know nothing about what lies beneath. It's as if they have only shared a part of themselves.
It's this interaction and realization that makes the film so great. The plot almost seems beside the point; it's merely there to make use see the characters.
I give the film four stars instead of five because of some of the scenes were out of place, almost as if Cronenberg couldn't decide what kind of film to make. William Hurt is good at the end, for instance, but his character didn't fit. Watch the movie for the main characters' interactions and go along with the rest.
In his terrific new film, "A History of Violence" Cronenberg has it both ways: his film features a straight forward plot that he handles with just a slight out-of-kilter quality that adds crunch and bite to the story of a man, Tom Stall (the quintessential strong silent, Gary Cooper-type, Viggo Mortensen) who, when placed in a situation that requires swift and brutal force...vomits out the internal fortitude necessary from deep inside his psyche and bowels to come up with the goods to deal with the situation. "AHOV" then, is about violence, brutality and the far reaching and ever telescoping tentacles that both exhibit as they wreak havoc on Tom, his wife Edie (the luminous Maria Bello) and his family and friends.
Cronenberg is dealing with some lofty and controversial ideas here: Kill someone and forever pay the price for that murder, whether or not the crime is justified or not. Commit violence and that violence colors everything that you are, everything that you do for the rest of your life. Once you take someone's life how much of you, the essence, the soul, the heart of you is gone also?
Viggo Mortensen's Tom Stall is strong of mind and morals, tender, vulnerable, upstanding but ultimately conflicted. Mortensen turns in a shaded performance that not only shows up Tom's soft side but also his malevolent one as well. Maria Bello, usually miss-used in her previous films is a revelation here as Edie: intelligent, accomplished, dedicated and hopelessly in love with Tom but aware that many times being in love doesn't mean you know everything about the object of that love.
"A History of Violence" is Cronenberg's "Vertigo": his version of obsession, violence and retribution told the Cronenbergian way: slanted toward the perverse...bordering on the maniacal. Don't blame Cronenberg because he is not Hitchcock, for he has learned his lessons from the master well. Blame him because he has come up with a film that is provocative and multi-layered though: one as transparent as a silk screen, just slightly out of reach...beckoning us in for a closer, scalpel-like investigation of what makes us tick, the buttons to punch to make us react and the mechanics necessary to allow us to exist.
More well-known as the creator of eccentric and unusual fare with legions of fans and admirers in the horror community, David Cronenberg may have his most mainstream and accessible film to date since his remake of The Fly. In A History of Violence Cronenberg's existentialism continues to show as he probes through the dark and shadowy corners of human behavior and instinct. He posits a question of whether people as a whole --- no matter how saintly, well-balanced, and civilized --- secretly revels in the violence they see around them even as they denounce and feel uncomfortable around it. Some have seen this film as something of a historical commentary of the American history and how the nation itself has been shaped by its acceptance of violence and its many repercussions. I would say that those people are not far off the mark, but to compartmentalize Cronenberg's film to such a narrow focus is not fair to the film. Cronenberg deftly shows the brutality of violence and how its effect can be far-reaching and intimite at the same time.
As his past films dealt with the horror of the body politic (Shivers, Crash, The Brood, The Fly) and the nature of reality and existence (Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Spider, eXistenZ) Cronenberg continues these themes with this film. Despite the gore and viscera being small in comparison to his past works, History still show the carnage and horror that violent acts can perform on the frail human body. The film also points out that people as a whole deceive themselves of the true world around them in order to hold onto the ideal and the quaint. This is really put forward by the dynamic interaction between the character of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Edie (Maria Bello) from beginning to end. It is a testament to the excellent performances by both these actors that the audience truly believe and care for their characters on-screen. I'll have to say that this is Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello's best work to date and it would be criminal of the industry not to reward them in some way come awards season. The chemistry between these two performers is genuine, searing and very intimate. The very last can be seen in graphic detail in the two scenes of sex between the characters. One in the beginning is naughtily playful and shows how much in love the two characters still are and the second being more brutal and primal as the hidden layers of each character is slowly peeled away to show whats been hidden all along.
For an art-film masquerading as an action-thriller, A History of Violence is very deliberate in setting up each violent outburst. There's an underlying dread that permeates through each set-up. We know that something is about to happen, but its not rushed and gradually builds-up until something has to break. The violence is not your stereotypical action sequence that looks staged, but comes and goes quickly with the brutality and lethality of reality. In fact, the violence has the feel of being very intimate. Everything is up close and personal. Nothing is done from a distance and each strike and violent act painful to see, yet in all instances each scene also gets a rousing response from the audience. This is particularly evident in a scene concerning Tom Stall's teenage son dealing with a particular high school bully in brutal fashion. Everyone in this film is touched by violence in some way or another. From the very young to the very old. The final scene at the dinner table is both haunting and familiar. With all that has been going on through Tom's life and that of his family there's a sense of acceptance of the violent genie that was unleashed in the beginning and one of "life must go on" mentality.
I must say that A History of Violence has to be one of the best films I've seen since I've been watching them. For a film that is really just a revenge-thriller similar to Chan-wook Park's Oldboy, Cronenberg's latest has so many layers and depth to it that anyone who sees it are going to be tempted to talk about its themes and subtext lon after they've left the theater. Where Oldboy is like a hard kick in the gut then a devastation stomp on the neck, A History of Violence is more insidious, intimate and subversive --- like a sharp papercut just beneath the fingernail that lingers and tells one that its going to be there for awhile and there to stay. Some may end up not liking the film due to its deliberate nature or not having enough people dying in elaborately staged action sequences, but that will only show exactly what Cronenberg has been trying to show. That people nowadays have been so inured and desensitized by violence that we've come to accept it as entertainment and actually have come to yearn and need it like a drug-addict looking for their next hit. One of the best films of 2005, if not one of the best in the past decade.
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a family man who runs a quiet diner in a small town and has the idyllic life of husband to a beautiful, loving wife, Edie (Maria Bello), and father to an adolescent son, Jack (Ashton Holmes), and younger daughter, Sarah (Heidi Hayes). One fateful day a pair of serial criminals barges into the diner looking for trouble in the worst way, and Tom must protect his patrons and staff. What transpires is a remarkable display of self defense and marksmanship as Tom becomes a local hero for his bravery. Soon after, a mysterious, black car begins to stalk Tom and his family at his diner and home. A hardened looking man named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) approaches Tom. It seems Tom's notoriety in the media has attracted Fogarty's attention leading him to believe Tom is not who he appears to be but rather a man named Joey with a very dark, violent past. Years ago, this Joey had run from the mob after causing a lot of trouble and mutilating one of Fogarty's eyes. The uneasy tension bubbles over when Fogarty and his men confront Tom at his home as his family watches in terror. What happens then and afterwards leads to traumatic discovery and the reevaluation of relationships that culminates full circle at a mobster's mansion in Philadelphia.
Adapted by Josh Olson from the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, director Cronenberg displays a sure hand in his scenes of conflict whether they are emotional or violent. How ironic that the Canadian born director comments on the violence in the U.S. He does a nice job of setting up the scenes and characters methodically as we first see a loving family amid an innocent town. Subsequently, an ominous atmosphere of foreboding hangs over the rest of the film. There are some terrific set pieces that culminate in startling violence, and the confrontation at Tom's house is quite memorable and results in a moment of truth. Let it be said that the violence is organic. It grows out of necessity and is carried out brutally and swiftly. The scenes have a lingering trauma on the characters and the audience. The visuals are stark and powerful by cinematographer Peter Suschitzky with a brooding score by Howard Shore (ironically a veteran scorer of previous Cronenberg films and Mortensen's Lord of the Rings trilogy). In fact the film, with its small, peaceful town contrasted with an evil menace, feels like a David Lynch film, and is thematically very much akin to Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks.
Ed Harris makes a grand entrance early on and he grabs this juicy role and never lets go. It is certainly one of his finest performances. William Hurt makes you realize just how talented an actor he is in the relatively short but brilliant turn as a mobster from the past with an agenda. But it is lead actor Viggo Mortensen who shines as the reluctant hero. He balances just the right amount of paradoxical innocence and cunning. He is a man about to peer over the precipice and lose everything he has. His brooding, quiet but strong avenger is constantly riveting. Maria Bello is quite touching as the affected wife and mother who is confronted by fear and uncertainty. Even Stephen McHattie registers strongly as one of the baddies (very reminiscent of the scum in Natural Born Killers) at the beginning.
Some directors are accused of making movies of interminable length. Not so with Cronenberg as he may be accused of being too economic and concise. While the pacing is tightly edited for maximum impact, some relationships needed to be fleshed out more. During the course of the story, there are two graphic displays of sex between Tom and Edie (one playful and the other angry) which serve as emotional counterpoints to their relationship. We need to understand what is going on in Edie's mind and how she faces the future with her family. While there is a promising development of the early bonding between Tom and his introverted son Jack, we want more exposition of Jack as he goes from harassed school kid to a coming of age. We just needed a bit more character development, but what we do have is pretty thought provoking and unforgettable. The final scene is memorable.
A far cry from his notorious horror films, this film delves into the true nature of self and identity. This is Cronenberg's most accessible film since The Fly and The Dead Zone. While his early horror films like Scanners and Videodrome dealt with physical transformation, this film deals with metaphysical transformation. He comes dangerously close to his earlier, notorious cult film, Crash (not to be confused with Paul Haggis' current film), another film about human behavior dealing with psychological change. His films often deal with ugly, sordid truths and secrets that lie beneath what is perceived superficially. A fascinating study and exploration of human behavior under the most extreme duress, A History of Violence is an intelligent, brutal gem of a film not for all tastes, but for those willing to peer on the other side of sanity and complacency, it's a dark slice of unsavory life.