[[quoteright:210:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/History_Of_Violence_001_4284.jpg]]

'''''A History of Violence''''' is a 2005 crime thriller directed by Creator/DavidCronenberg and written by Josh Olson, based on a 1997 GraphicNovel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.

The film stars Creator/ViggoMortensen as Tom Stall, a [[NiceGuy universally well-liked]] [[TheEveryman restaurant proprietor]] and [[HappilyMarried family man]] living in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana, who is thrust into the spotlight after he kills two armed robbers who enter his diner and threaten his customers one night. This act wins him the admiration of the townsfolk, who hail him as a hero, but also the attention of Carl Fogarty, an [[TheIrishMob Irish mobster]] from Philadelphia, who shows up in town shortly afterwards insisting to anyone who will listen that Tom is not who he says he is. Fogarty asserts that Tom's real name is Joey Cusack, and that he's a [[RetiredBadass former enforcer]] for the mob who is living in Millbrook under an assumed name after maiming Fogarty, who has been looking for him for years to get revenge. The rest of the film is devoted to determining the truth of Fogarty's claims, as well as detailing the effects that the revelation that the man they've known for so many years may not be who he says he is have on Tom's wife and children.

The movie co-stars Ed Harris as Fogarty, Maria Bello as Tom's wife Edie, and Creator/WilliamHurt as Richie Cusack[[note]]Hurt had less than ten minutes of screentime, yet was still nominated for Best Supporting Actor[[/note]] (Fogarty's boss and Joey's brother). Also around are his son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes), as well as Sam Carney, the local sheriff (Peter [=MacNeill=]). An uncredited Stephen [=McHattie=] also appears in the early part of the film as one of the killers.

Being a Cronenberg film, it's [[FanDisservice not for the squeamish]], though it does feature a somewhat more idyllic setting and less depressing ending than most of his movies. The "killing level" violence is actually contained into four surprisingly short parts of the movie, which helps to make it more effective.

Holds the distinction of being the last Hollywood film released on [[UsefulNotes/{{VCR}} VHS]].

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!!Tropes:

* ActionSurvivor: Tom seems to be this at first, but is he?
* AdultFear: When Edie thinks her daughter's been taken at the mall.
* AllGuysWantCheerleaders: Invoked in an early scene during which Edie dresses up as a cheerleader to seduce her husband, figuring he'll enjoy it since the two of them "never got to be teenagers together".
* AmericanAccents: Tom, Edie, and the other characters from Millbrook all speak in stereotypical flat, midwestern accents; Carl, Richie, and the other mobsters speak in Philadelphia accents.
** When Tom [[spoiler: goes back to Philly to confront his past, he is met by one of the mob thugs. When he is asked if he is really Joey, Tom slips back into his old accent, completing and confirming his transition into Joey]].
** Whilst Tom is in the hospital, [[spoiler: when he talks about Joey, his original accent briefly slips out.]]
* AttemptedRape: Tom is willing to let the two thugs at the beginning of the movie rob his diner, but [[BerserkButton he snaps]] when one of them tries to rape the waitress. [[spoiler: Later on Tom borderline-attempts to take his wife by force. After he realizes what he's doing and tries to stop, she grabs him and pulls him back in]].
* AxCrazy: This was Joey in a [[{{Pun}} nutshell]]; he [[spoiler: tore up Fogarty's face and blinded his left eye with '''barbed wire'''.]]
** They didn't call him "Crazy Joey" for no good reason.
** A good example of this is [[spoiler: after Jack kills Fogarty by shooting him in the back at point-blank range, for a moment Tom's expression is one of [[InLoveWithYourCarnage psychotic glee]] before he catches himself. As Edie later comments, when she looked outside at that moment, she saw ''Joey''.]]
* BadAss: Joey Cusack, to the point that even other hardened criminals were afraid of him. His nickname apparently was "Crazy Fuckin' Joey".
* BecomingTheMask: Joe appears not to recognise Fogarty, and David Cronenberg suggested in the commentary that this is because he's bought into his role so much.
* BewareTheNiceOnes: Tom is thought of as one of the nicest people in Millbrook; he's also clearly the most deadly. Possibly a deconstruction, as the film suggests that no 'nice' person could possibly be this competent at hand-to-hand combat. [[spoiler: Rather, the skill set comes from years of practice of associating with very unpleasant people, doing very unpleasant things.]]
** Also, Jack.
* CainAndAbel: Joey and Richie Cusack.
* CombatPragmatist: Tom. He can kill an armed man with his bare hands if he has to, but doesn't bother when there's a pot of coffee nearby.
* ContractOnTheHitman: The mob has one out on Joey, which makes life difficult for Tom.
* ConvenientlyUnverifiableCoverStory: Carl tells Edie that the life story Tom has told her is one of these.
* DarkAndTroubledPast: The crux of the movie is whether or not Tom has one.
* DeconstructorFleet: The film basically takes all the typical action tropes and turn them on their head as disturbing, if not horrific, when placed in the person of a small town family man.
* DinerBrawl: The plot kicks-off after one of these.
* DownOnTheFarm: Millbrook is depicted as a typical midwestern town, and the Stall family lives in a farmhouse.
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Richie has this reaction to what Joey did to Fogerty, in addition to marring his reputation, he says it was disgusting.
--> Jesus, Joey, you took his eye. Barbed wire, was it? That's disgusting.
* EyeScream: Carl Fogarty is blind in his left eye, which Joey attempted to rip out with barbed wire.
* FauxAffablyEvil:
** Fogarty and his men.
** Richie seems to be AffablyEvil at first, but soon reveals himself to be this.
* GoodPeopleHaveGoodSex: Played straight at first with Tom and Edie, who have a very passionate love life for a couple that's been married close to twenty years. Later subverted when, after she learns that her husband may have been a vicious criminal, Edie has even more passionate (if rough, and borderline violent) sex with him.
** During their first love scene Tom and Edie are shown changing position for a 69er, and David Cronenberg (in the commentary) jokes that it might well be the first time this position has been shown in a Hollywood movie.
* HappilyMarried: Tom and Edie, at first.
* HomeFieldAdvantage: {{Deconstructed}}. When murderous mobsters come knocking on your door, your house is just a house.
* ImprovisedWeapon: During the robbery scene Tom blinds and disables one of the robbers with a pot of hot coffee. Joey also was apparently quite good at using these, if Fogarty is to be believed.
* InTheBlood: The movie frequently toys with the question of whether violent behavior is InTheBlood or not.
* InterplayOfSexAndViolence: Tom and Edie have sex twice in the film. The first time is at the fun end of wholesome. The second time...
* TheIrishMob: Carl and company are members, and claim Tom is as well.
* IShouldHaveDoneThisYearsAgo:
--> [[spoiler: '''Tom:''' I should've killed you back in Philly.]]
--> [[spoiler: '''Carl:''' Yeah Joey... you should have.]]
* JerkJock: The bully who torments Jack at school.
* [[{{Kids Are Cruel}} Kids Are Cruel]]: [[spoiler: Ritchie fondly recalls that when their mother brought the newborn Joey from the hospital, he tried to strangle him in his crib.]]
* LetsGetDangerous: The two psychos at the beginning of the film mistake Tom for a hapless small town hick; it's the last mistake they ever make.
* TheMaidenNameDebate: Edie is furious that her last name is literally meaningless, as 'Stall' is just a false name picked at random by Tom.
* MuggingTheMonster: If the robbers had only known how dangerous Tom was...
** Also, to a lesser extent, the two bullies who tried to intimidate Jack in school, and found themselves hospitalized.
* NeverBringAKnifeToAGunfight: Tom just unloaded four bullets into Billy's chest. What his companion decide to do? Pull a knife and [[TooDumbToLive stab Tom in the foot]]. RealityEnsues when Tom pulls the trigger at point blank range from the robber's head.
* NoEnding: [[spoiler: The mobsters are all dead, but whether Tom and Edie's marriage survives is left hanging.]]
* NoHoldsBarredBeatdown: Jack gives one of these to a JerkJock who had been making his life hell after he learns more about who his father might be. He ends up hospitalizing the poor [[AssholeVictim jackass]].
** Correction. Jack actually hospitalises ''[[CrowningMomentOfAwesome both]]'' of them!
* NothingExcitingEverHappensHere: Doubly subverted / deconstructed; Millbrook is initially presented as idyllic precisely ''because'' [[NothingExcitingEverHappensHere nothing exciting ever happens there]]; when the bodies start piling up it's more upsetting and disturbing than it is exciting.
* ObfuscatingStupidity: Tom, repeatedly.
* ParentalHypocrisy: When Jack is suspended from school for beating up a bully, Tom berates him for it.
--> '''Tom''': In this family, we do not solve problems by hitting people!
--> '''Jack''': No, in this family, we shoot them! ''*Tom hits Jack*''
* PrettyLittleHeadshots: Averted, as you'd expect from a Cronenberg film. Tom shoots one of the robbers at the beginning of the movie in the back of the head, and his face [[YourHeadASplode more or less explodes]] as a result.
** [[NauseaFuel Not that it stops him from trying to breathe]], at least for a while.
** Played straight with Richie though, where he's shot point blank in the head, the bullet goes through, and a lot of blood gets out, but his head stays intact.
* RealityEnsues: The movie does not shy away from depicting the actual consequences of violence. As mentioned above, when one of the robbers is shot in the head, we see him gasping his last breaths out of his ruined face. When Jack retaliates against the bully, the next thing we see is his father explaining the results: Jack has been suspended from school, the boy is in the hospital, and his family is considering pressing criminal charges.
* RetiredBadass[=/=]RetiredMonster: Tom[=/=]Joey - maybe, or maybe not.
* StealthPun: Given the disturbing and unsettling nature of this movie you wouldn't expect a pun. Given that it happens in a taut and emotionally tense scene it's entirely possible to miss it or believe it's unintentional (though that's unlikely, given the character's surname in the graphic novel was [=McKenna=]). Nonetheless, it's there:
--> [[spoiler: '''Edie:''' How did you choose the name "Stall"?]]\\
[[spoiler: '''Tom:''' It was available]]
** Actually, what he probably meant was [[DeadPersonImpersonation that it had been recently vacated]].
* TakeThat: When Creator/DavidCronenberg was asked about the "obvious influence" of Shyamalan on ''AHistoryOfViolence'', Cronenberg simply responded "I HATE that guy! Next question."
* TheReveal: Given the premise, there has to be one, no?
* SuddenlyAlwaysKnewThat: Tom, to everyone's surprise knows Kung Fu. The improbability of this given Tom's stated background is {{lampshade}}d by Carl:
-->'''Carl''': "Ask him, Edie - how come he's so good at killing people?
* ThatManIsDead: Joey Cusack, mob hitman - possibly.
* ThirdPersonPerson: [[spoiler:In the hospital, when his wife asks him who he really is, Tom briefly talks about Joey]].
-->'''Tom:''' [[spoiler:I thought I killed Joey. I buried him in the desert.]]\\
'''Edie:''' [[spoiler:Are you crazy? Is this, like, multiple personalities? What?]]
* TookALevelInBadass: Jack beats the hell out of a school bully who'd previously been tormenting him after finding out that his father may have once been a professional killer.
* VomitIndiscretionShot: When [[spoiler: Tom says he used to be Joey,]] Edie responds by running into the bathroom and vomiting.
* WhamLine: When Fogerty has Tom at his mercy.
-->'''Fogerty:''' You have anything to say before I blow your brains out, you miserable prick? \\
'''Tom:''' *sighs* [[spoiler: I should've killed you back in Philly.]]
* WireFu: Averted. Tom Stall is obviously extremely well-versed in HTH combat, but he sticks entirely to BoringButPractical moves. They're very bloody practical. Cronenberg bloody practical.
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