Saturday, July 31, 2010

SYC Reviews: A History of Violence

And we're back. No I won't pretend it's permanent but I just got a new iPhone app to blog with so let's see how this goes.

Today I'm reviewing a film I've heard little about but have been anticipating watching. A History of Violence is just like the main character, Viggo Mortensen's Tom Stall: not what it seems. I had a few preconceptions on what this film was and only a few of them came to pass. It had violence (graphic at that), a hidden identity, and a somewhat small town feel. Lastly I knew that after Viggo dispatched impressively with some crooks at his diner, he'd be a hero but chased down by Ed Harris' mysterious character.

And that when things take a turn. I had a lot of hopes for this one. It could have gone so many ways. Viggo could have been a trained killer but didn't remember it. He could have been chased down by the government or someone looking to recruit him for either good or bad reasons. None of that is the case. Instead the film moves through its potentially most interesting points briskly and disappointingly.

Harris wants revenge for what Viggo did back in Philly, everyone being connected to the mob scene there. Harris plays it cool and sly, subtly stalking Viggo's family and coming across as a good threat. Yet he is dispatched far quicker than we expect and too easily. Viggo's family falls apart at the realization of the truth, even the son emulating his beating up a bully.

But the real tragedy of the film is there's not enough stuff here to make the story intriguing or entertaining. Viggo is incredibly good at killing and not once in the film do we feel he's ever in true danger. William Hurt makes what can only be called a cameo appearance as his mob brother. A good exchange is had but like much of the film it feels so wasted.

It's a shame really, A History of Violence had much potential but doesn't reach any of it. I won't say Ed Harris was wasted, but he was poorly utilized and that's a cardinal sin of movie making, he made The Rock watchable for godsakes. Plus at 90 odd minutes, it's too obvious they didn't know how to tell the story and ends abruptly. It earns the dubious Bronze Medal of Not-Aragorn.

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