“A History Of Violence” utilizes a plot line which probablyly only happens in movies. A person hidden away, either through the witness protection program or through a change of identity, is somehow found out by his pursuers, with the predictable attempts made to get vengeance.
How often, if ever, this has actually happened in real life may not be known, but it seems to come up on film frequently. This type of story was done as a comedy a few years afterwards, “Did You Hear About The Morgans,” starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker. But there are no laughs in A History Of Violence and a lot more killing. The story of A History Of Violence may not be realistic, but the violence is.
The film was directed by David Cronenberg with his distinctive, graphic style. The film was based on a novel by John Wagner.
Before this movie, Viggo Mortensen was best known for his work in “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy, but he is a long way from the world of Tolkien here. He plays Tom, an apparently mild-mannered man but who in the past was named Joey Cusack. He was involved with some serious organized criminals from Philadelphia. He assumed a new identity apparently to escape their pursuit. As Tom, he started a family, with a two kids and a wife, played by Maria Bello.
Though Tom is supposed to have been a criminal, he seems more like a military-trained attack machine, in the manner of Mark Wahlberg’s character Swagger in the film “Shooter.” When a couple of low-level violent thieves attempt to rob his little coffee shop, not to mention rape his waitress. Tom’s instincts kick in. He throws boiling coffee into the face of one of them, steals his gun and then shoots both of them.
Tom becomes a hero and his story is shown around the country on television. His old mob enemies see it, including a frightening figure, Fogarty, played menacingly by Ed Harris. Eventually, Richie Cusack, played by William Hurt, also wants justice from Tom, even though he is his brother.
In addition to all the violence, there is the impact the revelations have on Tom’s family. Maria Bello as Tom’s wife Edie tries to come to terms with her husband’s discovered past, not to mention having to deal with the new threats her family is facing. There is also their high school student son Jack, played by Ashton Holmes, who has the normal array of teenage problems anyway. He is also confused and angry with his father, though he ends up helping him deal with the threats.