''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 [[RetiredMonster 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 Creator/EdHarris 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 Creator/StephenMcHattie 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 one of the final Hollywood films released on [[UsefulNotes/{{VCR}} VHS]]. Contrary to what some sources say, it actually wasn't the last--that honor later went to a rare Disney Movie Club print of ''WesternAnimation/{{Cars}}'', and now goes to a very rare issue of ''Film/{{Eragon}}''.


* ActionSurvivor: Tom seems to be this at first, but is he actually something darker?
* AdaptationalVillainy:
** Joey Muni was a young street criminal but nothing like Crazy Fuckin' Joey the film portray. The reason he used barb wire on Fogarthy's comic counterpart was because Joey had nothing else on hand and the man just chopped one of his finger with an axe.
** Richie Benedetto, Joey's friend and partner in crime, becomes a criminal don named Richie Cussack in the movie while in the comic his biggest crime was stealing the mob and murdering the don to avenge his brother.The NYPD officiously praise the two boys for what they did.
* AdultFear: When Edie thinks her daughter's been taken at the mall.
* AllGirlsWantBadBoys: Edie seems far more attracted to Tom when she finds out about his potential violent past, to the point of them having rough, desperate sex on the stairs. She doesn't seem proud of it, though.
* 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".
* AmbiguousDisorder: Richie Cusack doesn't seem completely sane; he can have an odd speech pattern, had TroublingUnchildlikeBehavior as a child, and seems almost divorced from normal human emotions. Noticably [[spoiler: he has little reaction to ordering the death of his own brother just for some more respect, reacts with annoyance more than fear/horror at seeing his men being decimated by Joey in the same room, kills his own man for failing him while Joey is still in the building, and isn't particularly upset when Joey is about to execute him.]]
* ArtisticLicenseLaw: Tom is worried about the families of the two bullies his son beat up suing his family, but any decent lawyer could easily come up with a pattern of the two bullies harassing Jack, witnesses who could attest that the two bullies attacked him first in the hallway (watch the scene, both of them shoved him around first. Once from behind when he was completely unaware, and once more when he tried to leave), and that Jack tried several times to walk away. However it might level to simply mitigating circumstances depending on how the investigation go. Tom's concern might also simply be the potential expense of being sued and [[spoiler:the fact that it might mean greater scrutiny for him, leading to his true identity being revealed.]]
* 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 tore up Fogarty's face and blinded his left eye with '''barbed wire'''. Even other hardened criminals were afraid of him; they didn't call him "Crazy Fuckin' 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''.]]
* BecomingTheMask: [[spoiler:Tom/Joey appears not to recognise Fogarty at first, 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 truly 'nice' person would be this competent and ruthless 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. When he finally snaps and turns the table on the bullies, he opens up one very frightening can of whoop ass.
--> '''Jack:''' Are you laughing? Are you laughing NOW, you [[ClusterFBomb motherfuckin' cock-sucking piece of shit!"]]
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler: All the mobsters are dead, but Tom/Joey has alienated his son and his wife in the process, possibly irreversibly. Still, it is implied that his family has decided to accept him for who he his, so there's hope.]]
* BoringButPractical: Joey's fighting style consists entirely of simple but brutally effective crippling strikes. He has a particular fondness for crushing windpipes.
* CainAndAbel: Joey and Richie Cusack.
* CombatPragmatist: Tom. He can kill an armed man with his bare hands if he has to, but why bother to use your bare hands when there's a hot pot of coffee nearby?
* ContractOnTheHitman: The mob has one out on Joey, which makes life difficult for Tom. It's not for [[HitmanWithAHeart the usual reasons]], though - [[spoiler:Joey attacked Fogerty, a made man, apparently without provocation and has been on the run ever since.]]
* 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.
* DoubleMeaningTitle: Does it refer to the main character's own history of violence, or is it about how violence perpetuates through history?
* 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 pretty decent 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.
* GroinAttack: The first move Jack makes when he finally snaps from being bullied is to attempt an eighty-yard field goal with one of the asshole's balls, and ''he fucking splits the uprights.'' It's worth noting that afterwards, that bully is completely out of the action. A solid groin attack is ''incapacitating.''
* HappilyMarried: Tom and Edie, at first.
* HomeFieldAdvantage: {{Deconstructed|Trope}} and averted. 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. It seems to have a hard time making up its mind about whether InTheBlood or TaughtByExperience is in effect, or if the two coexist together.
* 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: [[spoiler: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.
** The bullies averted this earlier in the movie, however. They nearly got into a car accident with the pair of robbers, and the lead bully starts to go to say something to them, but then he gets a look at the two men and something he sees makes him just freeze and let them go by without a word. Judging by an exchange he has with the other bully, he was deeply freaked out by something he sensed about the two.
-->'''Sidekick Bully:''' Who the fuck was that?\\
'''Lead Bully:''' [scared and barely hiding it] I don't know. And I don't wanna know. [Drives off in the opposite direction at high speed]
* 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]] just as well as Joey could have.
* 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.
* OneManArmy: Joey versus a house full of mobsters. They should have brought more mobsters.
* 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*''
* PragmaticAdaptation: The film is ''very'' different from the original comic. In the graphic novel, Tom [=McKenna=] [[spoiler: 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 [[spoiler: 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.
* 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.
* PsychoticSmirk: Tom sports one briefly after [[spoiler: Jack kills Fogarty]].
* RayOfHopeEnding: [[spoiler:Tom manages to kill all the mobsters, yet it's unknown whether he'll be able keep his family together. Still, the small gestures they show of giving him some food when he enters, rather than ignoring him indicate acceptance, so there's hope.]]
* 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: This is the major question of the story. Is Tom who he says he is, or is he really one these tropes?
* 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 ''A History of Violence'', 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 how to fight and how to use a gun, and can do so calmly, efficiently and very lethally against a pair of murderous criminals. 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: [[spoiler:Tom Stall thought he made a complete break with his past as Joey Cusack, as he eventually explains to Edie... but it turns out Joey ''will'' come to the surface under the right circumstances, and the events of the film give Joey plenty of chances to do just that.]]
* 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? Are you like some multiple-personality schizoid? What?]]
* TooDumbToLive: Carl Fogerty is so fucking stupid, you'd think Joey took out a double scoop of his brains in addition to blinding him in one eye. Show up at the house of someone you know is extremely dangerous with only two other men? Check. Tell one of your men to approach within arm's length of said extremely dangerous person in order to take him prisoner? Check. Turn your back on this dangerous person, assuming everything is going to go according to plan and he won't resist being taken captive? Check. Lose both your mooks because you're too stupid to think someone won't fight for their life? Check. Get extremely lucky and wound your enemy, gain the advantage, then run your mouth making sure you get the last word, giving the man's son all the time in the world to walk up behind you completely unnoticed and blow you in two with a double-barreled shotgun? Check. Fucking A, Carl. It's amazing your own organization didn't get fed up with stupidity and drown you in a toilet years ago.
** Richie Cusack's mooks are very incompetent. All they had to do was shoot Joey dead, but instead they try to strangle him with a wire. When you have to shoot, shoot, don't strangle!
** Richie Cusack is also pretty fucking stupid. Joey surprises one of Richie's incompetent mooks and shuts the door with Richie outside the house. So what Richie does? He puts his gun under his armpit and searches for his key to open a door that wasn't even locked, totally letting his guard down when his brother opens the door.
* 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.
* VomitDiscretionShot: 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.]]
* WouldHurtAChild: A little girl gets shot by one of the crooks at the beginning. Given [[BodyHorror the consequences of violence]] in this film, it's a good thing [[GoryDiscretionShot the camera cuts away at that moment.]]
* WireFu: Averted. Joey is obviously extremely well-versed in hand to hand combat, but he sticks entirely to BoringButPractical moves. They're very bloody practical. Cronenberg bloody practical.
* YouHaveFailedMe: [[spoiler: Ritchie]] executes one of his wounded henchmen after failing to kill [[spoiler: Joey]], despite the henchman having a clear opportunity on an unaware opponent.
-->[[spoiler:'''Ritchie:''']] How do you fuck that up?
-->*kicks henchman*
-->[[spoiler:'''Ritchie:''']] HOW DO YOU FUCK THAT UP!?
-->*shoots henchman*