"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Sunday, October 09, 2005

TRC Film Review: A History of Violence

By virtue of his work in the LOTR trilogy, Viggo Mortensen has clearly made his way into the top tier of Hollywood leading men. The fact that he got the juicy role of Tom Stall in A History of Violence proves it.

HOV is a superb film. I haven't seen anything in the theatre that has caught my interest in the way this movie did in a long time. It is violent, graphically violent in a smoothly choreographed fashion, but this isn't action movie violence. It isn't glorified. At every point you see the dualistic nature of violence, justified or not, and the way even the justified violence leaves you feeling a little sick.

The basic story is about a simple, small-town man who kills men about to commit rape, robbery, and murder in his cafe'. He is so successful in thwarting the attack of these bad men, he attracts attention from the media who view him as a hero and from less savory characters who think he is one of their number from the past. These big-city mob types want to kill Tom Stall as revenge for something they believe he did years ago. They think his name is Joey and that he maimed a made man.

Whether he is the man they are looking for or not, I leave for you to find out.

In any case, the film is very successful in riveting the viewer's interest and stimulating thought. You care about the characters and become invested in the outcome.

Finally, William Hurt had a small, but very important part in the film. He may be on screen for ten minutes, but they all count. He's magnificent in his role. If they give an Oscar for a brief, but powerful appearance, it's his.

Side note: There are two sex scenes in the film between Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello. The scenes are semi-gratuitous. I say semi because they do contribute to the development of the story, but the same could have been done with less graphic scenes. I wouldn't mention it except that the scenes are far from cookie-cutter, so you end up reflecting on them.

Side note 2: Despite the fact that I clearly asked for a ticket to A History of Violence, the cashier gave me a ticket to The 40 Year Old Virgin. Since it was a weeknight and it didn't matter, I didn't ask for a new ticket. After the film, however, I wondered whether the mistake could have been intentional. Think of it, my money went to a film I didn't see. Unethical individuals could arrange something like that with bribes or favors to cashiers. I could be on an imagination trip, but it seems possible.

19 comments:

connie deady said...

I was pretty surprised to see a supportive review of [i]A History of Violence[/i] at [i]The Reform Club[/i]. Many have considered it to have political overtones and be critical of America. The director David Cronenberg is an atheist and Viggo Mortensen is a pretty radical leftist (to my great admiration).

The really great think about the movie to my mind was that it poses questions about violence rather than giving trite answers. The audience is given bad guys to hate and then the act of violence to applaud and then the consequences of the violence. Can we avoid violence? If we engage in violence, what does it do to us?

Tom Van Dyke interesting link to a discussion of America, Bush and the war on terror. I was re-reading it in another context today and this one passage struck me as really telling in terms of AHOV. The article discusses differences in religions and a Christian versus a Buddhist way of looking at good and evil. It notes that buddhists see good and evil as not good versus evil and us versus them, but as their being good and evil within all of us and our struggles with evil. Many Americans see our war on terrorism as us (the good) versus bin Laden (the evil). The roots of evil to Buddhists are contained in all of us and are greed, delusion and ill-will. Anyway here is the passage:

[i]We all love this struggle between good (us) and evil (them), because it is, in its own fashion quite satisfying. It makes sense of the world. Think of the plot of every James Bond film, every Star Wars film, every Indiana Jones film, etc. The bad guys are caricatures. They're ruthless, maniacal, without remorse, so they must be stopped by any means necessary. We are meant to feel it's okay -- to tell the truth it's pleasurable -- to see violence inflicted upon them. Because the villains like to hurt people, it's okay to hurt them. After all they are evil and evil must be destroyed.

What is this kind of story really teaching us? That if you want to hurt someone, it is important to demonize them first: in other words, to fit them into your good-versus-evil script. Even school bullies begin by looking for some petty offense (often a perceived insult) that they can use to justify violence. That is why the first casualty of all wars is truth: the media must sell this script to the public.[i]

Burwell said...

HB-

The ticket snaffu has also happened to some friends of mine, who are very right wing (this is important). They went to the movies to see something, I cannot remember what, and after paying for it they realized that they had been given tickets for F/911. They went back to the booth and insisted that their tickets reflect their purchase. They did not wish to be a part of any viewer-inflation.

Hunter Baker said...

Interesting, Burwell. I wonder if it's something that happens more often than we know. How frequently do we look down and even check our ticket.

HB

Matt Huisman said...

I believe that 'first run' movie theaters pay for their movies on a percentage basis. These percentages vary from distributor to distributor, and usually decline over time.

So in your example, if you went to see HOV during the first week of its release, and The 40 Yr Old Virgin had been out for over a month, the theater would pay less to the distributors for the older release.

I don't know how significant the numbers here are, but my guess is that this is a simpler explanation of 'rigged' ticket sales.

Hunter Baker said...

Brilliant idea, Matt. I knew about the percentage change, but didn't think of that as a reason for charging a different ticket.

To Connie, I'm not sure why you'd be surprised TRC would have a positive review of the Cronenberg/Mortensen film. I'd have to be an absolute hack to give a film a bad review simply because of who made it. I am quite aware of Mortensen's ideology, but I can't ignore the superb work he does in this picture.

Tom Van Dyke said...

This is the article Connie refers to, which I enjoyed very much.

It has a partisan blind spot, namely toward the bunch that calls Bush & Cheney "evil," but the principles are sound.

I'm also happy that Bush is dropping the "evil" rhetoric lately, in favor of more accurate terminology.

But just because al-Qaeda is, non-dualistically speaking, not "evil," that doesn't mean they still aren't the enemy of all human decency.

Tlaloc said...

"But just because al-Qaeda is, non-dualistically speaking, not "evil," that doesn't mean they still aren't the enemy of all human decency."

They are people who see the disintigration of what they hold out as the one true way and who are fighting against it. Sound slightly familiar?

Jay D. Homnick said...

Thanks, Hunter, for the review. My schedule only allows one theater visit per three months or so, and I used my current quarter's allotment on Flight Plan. Which was a solid film in that it delivered on its promise.

So I won't hurry in the HOV lane to see HOV. I'll wait for HOV to go DVD and watch it in the VCR, the advantage being that I can enjoy it in my BVDs.

Hunter Baker said...

Given your scruples, I'm quite sure those BVD's are free of any trace of VD.

You should make sure to invite our friend TVD when you finally make time. Unfortunately for thrill seekers, I don't think the film will be available in 3-D.

connie deady said...

But just because al-Qaeda is, non-dualistically speaking, not "evil," that doesn't mean they still aren't the enemy of all human decency.

Well, I think the buddhist would say that al-Qaeda has two of the roots of evil within them as they have ill-will towards Christians and America and they are delusional. Of course I'd say the same thing about us. But then I'm a confirmed peacenik.

Anyway I enjoyed A History of Violence as did my daughter. It is a movie that makes one think and thinking is never a bad thing

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Well, I think the buddhist would say that al-Qaeda has two of the roots of evil within them as they have ill-will towards Christians and America and they are delusional. Of course I'd say the same thing about us. But then I'm a confirmed peacenik."


True, dat. But although peaceniks have ill will against Christians and America and are delusional, I still won't call them evil.

James Elliott said...

But although peaceniks have ill will against Christians and America and are delusional...

Buh-wha?

Asphinctersayswhat?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Buh-wah.

James Elliott said...

Damn. Here I thought "wah" should be an abbreviated form of "what."

connie deady said...

True, dat. But although peaceniks have ill will against Christians and America and are delusional, I still won't call them evil.

Quakers everywhere are offended.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Quakers ain't peaceniks. For one thing, they bathe.

Have you forgotten my first blog post ever?

I don't think it's telling tales out of school to reveal you were my unnamed correspondent. Besides, nobody's reading this thread anymore. :-)

(Still waiting for an answer, BTW.)

connie deady said...

(Still waiting for an answer, BTW.)

An answer to what? Some long ago argument? I still mention you fondly on Philliesphans. You rooting for the Angels?

I am an admitted peacenik. I suppose one could rightly ask the rationales for the peace philosophy. It probably was and still is mostly anti-establishment. But war should be a last resort. Death and violence are so horrible.

"Impeach, remove, jail" That's Viggo's new T-Shirt. I'm getting one of course. :) Viggo definitely qualifies as a peacenik. My kinda person.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But there are things worse than war, like sanctions.. War gets a bad rap sometimes.

connie deady said...

Two wrongs make a right? One bad policy justifies pursuit of a different but equally bad policy?