A History of Violence is a 2005 crime thriller directed by David Cronenberg and written by Josh Olson, based on a 1997 Graphic Novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, a universally well-likedrestaurant proprietor and 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 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 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 William Hurt as Richie Cusacknote Hurt had less than ten minutes of screentime, yet was still nominated for Best Supporting Actor (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 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 VHS.
Adult Fear: When Edie thinks her daughter's been taken at the mall.
All Guys Want Cheerleaders: 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".
American Accents: 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 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, when he talks about Joey, his original accent briefly slips out.
Attempted Rape: Tom is willing to let the two thugs at the beginning of the movie rob his diner, but he snaps when one of them tries to rape the waitress. 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.
Ax-Crazy: This was Joey in a nutshell; he tore up Fogarty's face and blinded his left eye with barbed wire.
They didn't call him "Crazy Fuckin' Joey" for no good reason.
A good example of this is after Jack kills Fogarty by shooting him in the back at point-blank range, for a moment Tom's expression is one of psychotic glee before he catches himself. As Edie later comments, when she looked outside at that moment, she saw Joey.
Bad Ass: Joey Cusack, to the point that even other hardened criminals were afraid of him. His nickname apparently was "Crazy Fuckin' Joey".
Becoming the Mask: 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.
Beware the Nice Ones: 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. Rather, the skill set comes from years of practice of associating with very unpleasant people, doing very unpleasant things.
Bittersweet Ending: All the mobsters are dead, but Tom/Joey has alienated his son and his wife in the process, possibly irreversibly.
Boring, but Practical: Joey's fighting style consists entirely of simple but brutally effective crippling strikes. He has a particular fondness for crushing windpipes.
Combat Pragmatist: 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.
Contract on the Hitman: The mob has one out on Joey, which makes life difficult for Tom. It's not for the usual reasons, though - Joey attacked Fogerty, a made man, apparently without provocation and has been on the run ever since.
Richie seems to be Affably Evil at first, but soon reveals himself to be this.
Good People Have Good Sex: 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.
One-Man Army: Joey versus a house full of mobsters. They should have brought more mobsters.
Parental Hypocrisy: 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*
Pragmatic Adaptation: The film is very different from the original comic. In the graphic novel, Tom Mc Kenna is really Joey Giuseppe, who went after the mob to get revenge for his friend and maintains the support of his family throughout. In the film, Tom Stall is really Joey Cusack, a former enforcer who randomly snapped one day and has been on the run ever since. The changes shift the focus off of the action and onto the slow implosion of Tom's family.
Pyrrhic Victory: In the end, Joey has taken out the mobsters threatening his family, but he's pushed away pretty much everything he ever cared about in order to do it.
Reality Ensues: 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.
Stealth Pun: 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:
Edie: How did you choose the name "Stall"? Tom: It was available