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PCR # 290  (Vol. 6, No. 41)  This edition is for the week of October 10--16, 2005.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"A History of Violence"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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New Line Cinema     
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 36 mins

Violence. As much as we try to ignore it, violence is an everyday occurrence in life. Many of us are successful in keeping violence away from us. But what happens when it can't be avoided? How would you react? That question is what you leave "A History of Violence" asking.

Tom Stahl (Mortensen) is a family man who seems to have everything going for him. A beautiful wife, 2 great kids, a good business and a great life in Anytown, U.S.A. One night, while Tom is working at the diner he owns, two men come in and attempt to rob it. When one of the men puts a gun to a woman's head, Tom reacts, dispatching the two bad guys as easily as one would swat a fly. Heralded as a hero, Tom's actions are soon the big story in newspapers and television broadcasts around the country. Enter Carl Fogarty (Harris), a well dressed man with a scarred face. He has heard of Tom's deed. Only when he addresses Tom he calls him Joey. As in Joey Cusack, a long time mobster and the man responsible for Fogarty's face. Is Tom just a mild mannered man who was pushed too far? Or does the fact that he killed those two robbers without blinking an eye prove that he's Joey? I'll never tell.

When you mention director David Cronenberg, most people automatically think of violence. But that is a misconception. Yes, violence is predominant in many of his films ("Scanners," "Naked Lunch," "Crash") but it's never for the sake of shock. People die in "A History of Violence," but the violence shown is never overdone. This is easily Cronenberg's best film and hopefully, like "The Fly," will prove to find a large audience. The cast is outstanding, led by Mortensen in an award worthy performance. This is not Aragorn from "Lord of the Rings." Tom Stahl is a being that Mortensen fully inhabits. Bello is fine as Tom's wife, unsure of who her husband really is. Is there a better character actor working today then Ed Harris? Like Mortensen he inhabits his character, adding Fogarty to a growing resume' of outstanding performances. William Hurt does a broad turn as a mobster who knows both Fogarty and the elusive Cusack and shows a great flair for the over dramatic.

"There is no such things as monsters," Tom Stahl tells his daughter as she's going to bed. But that's not true. With the right prodding anyone can be a monster.

A film that should garner many year-end award notices, "A History of Violence" is this year's first viable Best Picture nominee. On a scale of zero to four stars I give it  Four stars

This week's movie review of "A History of Violence" is ©2005 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2005, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2005 by Nolan B. Canova.