A History of Violence – Review (Spoiler Free)

A History of ViolenceViolence simmers under the surface here, constantly threatening to explode

David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence is first and foremost a film about violence itself.  The plot here isn’t complicated; in many respects it’s secondary to the characters and the film’s discussion on violence as a means to an end, as a way of life, as a necessity.

We follow Viggo Mortensen as an ordinary likeable guy who becomes an American hero when he saves his co-workers and workplace from two dangerous criminals. This incident’s repercussions however prove to be severe as he is caught in a case of mistaken identity by a mysterious and threatening man (Ed Harris).

This film opens with some excellent displays of tension and unease, an achievement which isn’t quite ever matched again in the film. However, there is a constant threat of violence permeating the air in every scene, and when it manifests itself it is handled excellently. It may never quite reach the intensity of the first twenty minutes, but the violence throughout this movie is used sparingly, it’s uncomfortable to watch, and it always informs us about character.

The only thing which stops this from being, in my eyes, a truly excellent discussion on violence is that it doesn’t spend long enough looking at how the use of violence affects certain individuals within the protagonist’s family. There is breathing room here to have expanded the focus just a little bit wider, it wouldn’t have stretched the film too thin, but just enriched its discussion a little more. Ultimately though this is an intelligent look at violence and those who use it, and although it may fall just a tiny bit short of its true potential, it’s still very much worth seeing.


What is the film’s greatest strength? The first twenty/twenty five minutes which are excellent.

Its greatest weakness? The very slightly too narrow focus.

Would I see it again? Yes I would, I’m sure it will benefit from a second viewing.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below!


  1. I thought this movie was excellent, I just haven’t seen it again in years, though I keep meaning to!

    1. I have had the same experience with this one. I liked it a lot the first time I saw it, but haven’t been motivated to do a second viewing.

      1. Hmmmm, I think we should test the concept out again!

        1. Sounds like a good plan guys!
          I think it came very close to being excellent in my eyes, a hair’s breadth away from it.

  2. Now say what?! Have I actually missed out on a Cronenberg movie, when did this come out… anyway love his movies and has so far never let me down with his movies so this is so on my to watch list.

    1. This one came out in 2005 and I would definitely recommend that you watch it! It’s one of the best of his that I have seen.

    2. theipc · · Reply

      Rincewind -have you seen Rabid??

      1. Omg that is such an awesome (well) movie. Ok its slightly oddish one but I would rewatch it for sure, probably 15 years since I saw it. Ohh the fx on that stinger LOL

        1. theipc · · Reply

          I just watched it the other day – it was something else for sure!

  3. Not seen this for quite a while but remember really liking it. I thought Viggo was excellent here. Nice review mate.

    1. Cheers, it’s a really good film and he is excellent. I think he is one of the most reliable actors around today actually.

  4. theipc · · Reply

    Good stuff – this movie was really good. I sure didn’t like the follow up they did….

    1. Cheers!
      Did you know they are doing a sequel to Eastern Promises?

      1. theipc · · Reply

        I did not!! That doesn’t excite me very much… HA!!

        1. I’m not sure about it, but as long as the two of them keep working together then everything is good!

  5. Good review Rumsey. Probably my favorite Cronenberg movie, however, it doesn’t seem like that’s much of an unpopular opinion. Still though, I like it when thrillers can be just that: Thrilling.

    1. Thanks Dan, it’s a great movie and I really enjoyed it. If it could have kept the quality of the first twenty/twenty-five minutes though… it would be an incredible movie I think.

  6. Nice review. : ) Very good movie but agree with the weakness listed.

    1. Cheers! It came very close to being a great movie I feel.

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