A History of Violence

When I first heard about A History of Violence (HoV), I thought it would be a documentary movie about violence and how it originated. I hesitated to watch the movie on dvd, but then, one lazy night, I popped the dvd in, and now I want to highly recommend the movie.

Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson- Lord of the Rings) lives in small town Indiana with his wife (Maria Bello- The Cooler) and two kids. He runs a small diner and lives a very simple life (pretty much the way I want to live!) Two mobsters enter the diner, and from what we see at the beginning of the movie, these mobsters just go around killing people whomever they feel like. The waitress is threatened, and before the mobsters could do anything, Tom Stall, in a very precise and timely manner attacks the mobsters and saves the lives of the waitress and the customers. Overnight, Tom Stall becomes the all American hero.

A few days later, one-eyed Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) comes in to the diner and talks to Tom Stall. Fogarty assumes he is talking to Joey Cusack. He tells Joey to go to Philadelphia to meet the boss there (John Hurt). Tom Stall denies he is Joey. His wife thinks Fogarty has mistaken her husband for someone else. However, Forgarty is so sure he is talking to Joey and even asks Tom to remember hard his past. Tom has no clue what Fogarty is talking about and asks him to leave.

Tom realizes that he has attracted the attention of a large circle of mobsters, since he killed two. Do the others want revenge and kill Tom Stall? We don’t know. Fogarty tells Tom’s wife to ask him of how he was able to single handedly kill two trained mobsters despite being a small-town family man. His wife starts to doubt her husband. How did a simple man like my husband manage to kill two men? Tom’s son, who is always picked on at school, at first resorts to non-violence to avoid confrontation, but after seeing his father attack two men, is led to believe that violence may be the answer to his problems.

It may sound off putting to some people, but this movie is so well made, stylishly shot, smooth and slick. The action scenes are as realistic as possible, thereby enhancing the realness of the movie. It’s not a documentary, nor is it filled with violence. At the core of this movie is a story about a man and his family and how their lives are changed when an outside claims that this man is not who he claims to be.

There is a huge mystery element to this story. Is Tom really Joey, or is it a case of mistake identity? What does Tom Stall eventually do? Does Fogarty drive a wedge between Tom and his wife? Does his wife still love him even though he is being called Joey by someone else now? What is the truth and who is Tom Stall really?

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