A History of Violence (film): Wikis


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A History of Violence

Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Cronenberg
Produced by Chris Bender
J.C. Spink
Toby Emmerich
Written by Josh Olson
John Wagner
(Graphic Novel)
Vince Locke
(Graphic Novel)
Starring Viggo Mortensen
Maria Bello
Ed Harris
William Hurt
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Editing by Ronald Sanders
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) September 23, 2005 (limited)
September 30, 2005
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $32 million
Gross revenue $60,334,064

A History of Violence is a 2005 American crime/thriller film directed by David Cronenberg, and written by Josh Olson, based on the graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke. The film features Viggo Mortensen as the owner of a diner who is thrust into the spotlight after killing two robbers in self-defense.

The film was put into limited release in the United States on September 23, 2005 and wide-release on September 30, 2005. It has the distinction of being the final major Hollywood motion picture released on VHS.[1]

William Hurt was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Josh Olson was nominated for Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay).



Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a local restaurant owner in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana who lives peacefully with his lawyer wife Edie (Maria Bello), his teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and younger daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes).

One night two robbers come into Millbrook and stop at Tom's restaurant as he is closing it. The robbers attempt to rob the restaurant, but Tom defends himself and his restaurant patrons by killing both robbers. Overnight, Tom Stall becomes a nationwide celebrity.

Tom is soon visited by a scarred gangster named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris), who alleges that Tom's real name is not Tom Stall, and that he is not even from Indiana. Fogarty claims Tom is actually a gangster named Joey Cusack, who used to run with him in the local Irish Mob in Philadelphia[2]. Tom denies these accusations and claims he has never been to Philadelphia, but Fogarty continues to stalk the Stall family. Under pressure from Fogarty and his newfound fame, Tom's marriage and relationship with his son, Jack, become strained.

Tom soon gets into an argument with his son over the use of violence, and Jack runs off. Fogarty soon arrives at the Stall house, with Jack in tow, and demands that "Joey" return with him to Philadelphia. Tom then gets into a fight with Fogarty's men, killing them with the same precision he used against the robbers, while Jack kills Fogarty with a shotgun to protect his father. At the hospital, Tom shocks Edie by finally admitting that he is actually Joey Cusack, and that he ran away from Philadelphia and adopted his Tom Stall persona. This furthers the tensions in their marriage.

Soon, Joey receives a call from his brother, Richie Cusack (William Hurt), who also demands his return to Philadelphia. Joey drives to his brother's estate and confronts him, and Richie reveals that the other mobsters whom Joey had offended took out their frustration on Richie instead, which caused him to never move up in the organization. When Joey tries to say all he wants is peace, Richie attempts to kill him, but Joey defends himself and kills his brother and all of his men.

Joey drives home to his family, who are sitting down to dinner. He receives a silent welcome in a tense atmosphere. The fate of his marriage, and the future of his Tom Stall persona, is left uncertain. There is however a small gesture made by both children to insinuate their acceptance of him. Sarah puts out a plate for him at the table and Jack after some hesitation places the food closer so that his father could partake in the meal.


Actor Role
Viggo Mortensen Tom Stall / Joey Cusack
Maria Bello Edie Stall
Ed Harris Carl Fogarty
Aiden Devine Charles "Charlie" Roarke
Bill McDonald Frank Mulligan
William Hurt Richie Cusack
Ian Matthews Ruben
Ashton Holmes Jack Stall
Heidi Hayes Sarah Stall
Stephen McHattie Leland Jones
Greg Bryk Billy Orser
Peter MacNeill Sheriff Sam Carney
Kyle Schmid Bobby
Sumela Kay Judy Danvers


Most of the film was shot in Millbrook, Ontario, and the climactic scene was shot at the historic Eaton Hall Mansion, located in King City, Ontario, Canada.[3]


Alternate versions

The U.S. and European versions differ on only two fight scenes: one where Tom breaks the nose of one of Fogarty's thugs and one where he stomps on the throat of one of Richie Cusack's thugs. Both scenes display more blood flowing or gushing out of the victims on the European version. In addition, a more pronounced bone-crushing sound effect is used when Tom stomps on the thug's throat.[4]

A deleted scene, known as "Scene 44", features a dream sequence in the diner, where Fogarty tells Tom he will kill him and his family; to which Tom responds by shooting him with his shotgun at close range. He then approaches Fogarty's lifeless and mangled body which suddenly raises its head, pulls a gun and shoots him.[5]


The film is loosely based on the original graphic novel. Screenwriter Josh Olson intended from the very beginning to use the original story as a springboard to explore the themes that interested him, and Cronenberg admitted that he did not know the screenplay was an adapted work until he had begun discussing Olson's second draft. The diner scene that sets the story in motion is nearly identical, and the basic cast of characters remains largely unchanged. The particulars of the plot are very different, especially as the story progresses.

The protagonist's name is changed from Tom McKenna to Tom Stall; John Torrino becomes Carl Fogarty, Tom's son Buzz becomes Jack, his daughter Ellie becomes Sarah, and Sheriff Carney's first name changes from Frank to Sam. The town in which the story takes place is changed from River's Bend, Michigan to Millbrook, Indiana, and the origin of the mobsters is changed from Brooklyn to Philadelphia. According to the German press kit, David Cronenberg and screenwriter Josh Olson changed the Italian-sounding names because they did not want the audience to anticipate Tom's mob ties too early in the film. In the film's audio commentary, Cronenberg says that Joey and Richie were Italian in Olson's screenplay, which he changed because Viggo Mortensen and William Hurt would not make convincing Italians, and he wanted to keep the film away from "the Sopranos Syndrome."

Much of the story of the graphic novel is a lengthy flashback detailing Tom's falling out with the mob. While the film is completely sequential and makes a brief and vague allusion to the trouble Tom caused as mob member, the graphic novel details at length a heist perpetrated by Tom against the mob. Olson opted to focus on Tom's struggles against his past and his relationship with his family, largely to the exclusion of the details of his falling out with his brother and the Mob.

The most profound alterations of the original novel's plot concern the character of Richie and his fate. In the comic book, he and Tom are childhood friends; while in the film they are brothers (they were not brothers in Olson's original screenplay; Cronenberg changed them to brothers to give their relationship more resonance). In the novel, Richie is captured by mobsters and mutilated after the incident that sends Tom on the lam: Richie's limbs are cut off and his eye taken out, yet he is still kept alive to be suspended from the ceiling in a harness and tortured for years. During the dramatic climax of the graphic novel Tom comes face to face with Richie, and Tom suffocates him in an act of euthanasia. In the film, Richie is depicted as Tom's brother; he is a mob boss who tries to have Tom killed. However, Tom ultimately overcomes Riche's henchmen, and subsequently kills his brother.

While in the comic, Tom's family is supportive and completely understanding, the film depicts his family struggling with the startling truth about Tom. The lengthy subplot concerning his son Jack turning to violence after his father's example does not exist in the comic, nor does the emotionally charged fight (and subsequent rough sex on the stairs) between Tom and Edie. In the comic, Edie shoots Torrino, and in the film, Jack shoots Fogarty. The comic concludes with Tom violently defeating the mobsters that haunted him, whereas the film ends with Tom's silent return to his family; a change that drastically shifts the tone of the film towards a more familial focus.


The film's title plays on multiple levels of meaning. Film critic Roger Ebert says that David Cronenberg suggests three possibilities: "(1) to a suspect with a long history of violence; (2) to the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and (3) to the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope", with the last as the dominant focus of the film. "I am a complete Darwinian," says Cronenberg, A History of Violence is in many ways about the survival of the fittest—at all costs.[6] Cronenberg did not come up with the title, however; that distinction belongs to John Wagner.

Thematic similarities between the film and the works of Sam Peckinpah have been much commented on: in an interview, Cronenberg did not deny this but also emphasized that there were significant differences both in terms of plot and style. Olson has acknowledged the debt the film pays to Peckinpah, especially the film Straw Dogs. He has also cited David Peoples' and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (there is a sly reference to pig farming by William Hurt's character) and the 1947 Jacques Tourneur thriller, Out of the Past.

Critical reception

Besides receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (William Hurt) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Josh Olson), the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes claims 86% of critics have given the film positive reviews (based on 192 reviews).[7] On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 81 out of 100, based on 37 reviews.[8] It was ranked the best film of 2005 in the Village Voice Film Poll.[9] Empire named the film the 448th greatest film of all-time.[10]

Awards and nominations


See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

A History of Violence is a 2005 film about how when the owner of a diner becomes a public hero after foiling a robbery, he is targeted by mobsters who claim he is an old rival with a secret past.

Directed by David Cronenberg. Written by John Wagner, Vince Locke and Josh Olson.
Everyone has something to hide. taglines


Carl Fogarty

  • You should ask Tom... how come he's so good at killing people?
  • Still crazy fucking Joey.

Jack Stall

  • If I rob Mulligan's pharmacy, are you going to whack me if I don't give you a piece of the action?
  • Who is your daddy, and what does he do?


  • Do you like being married? Does it work for you? I can't see it working for me. I never felt the urge, you know. A lot of great looking women in the world. I never met one, made me want to give up all the others. Sure you can fuck around, but it's so much damn work, keepin' it quiet. It's not worth the effort. Don't see the upside. You see the upside Joey?


Richie Cusack: [After his guys fail to kill Tom] How do you fuck that up?


Tom Stall: In this family, we do not solve problems by hitting people!
Jack: No, in this family, we shoot them!

Carl: Got anything to say before I blow your brains out, you miserable prick?
Tom: I should have killed you in Philly.
Carl: That's right.

Tom: I'm here to make peace. Can I do anything to make things right?
Richie: You can do one thing... You can die.

Richie: Jesus, Joey!
[Tom/Joey shoots him]
Tom/Joey: Jesus, Richie.


  • Everyone has something to hide.
  • Tom Stall had the perfect life... until he became a hero.


External links



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