David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’ (2011) is coming to the UK’s cinemas in February 2012, giving a good pretext to review one of the director’s most violent, action-driven and thought-provoking films – ‘A History of Violence’. Cronenberg excels himself in this film, blending a complex personality study and raw violence to a very satisfying result.
The film’s plot is straightforward. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is an ordinary, law-abiding family man who runs his own diner in a small town in the US. His settled daily routine changes when he involuntarily becomes a local community hero after protecting his employees from some vicious gun men. From then on, his family is stalked by members of an Irish-American mob who are convinced that Tom Stall is Joey Cusack, a man from Philadelphia with a violent past. His wife Eddie (Maria Bello), his son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and his young daughter all feel overwhelmed by the changes. After a shooting incident, whereby Tom kills one of the mob guys, Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), Tom finally confesses that he was Joey in the past, but has left that life for good. Later, Tom receives a call from his brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt) telling him to come to Philadelphia to see him. Tom does just this, and after a confrontation with his brother, kills him. The ending, depicting Tom coming home from Philadelphia to find his family at a dinner table, is very thought-provoking because, although his children are seemingly prepared to forgive him, it is unclear whether his wife is capable of accepting him into her life again.