"Neither Fish Nor Fowl"
What You Need To Know:
The family dynamics in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE are overwrought. Some people in the audience were even laughing at some of the situations and acting. Furthermore, the violent gangsters are caricatures. Finally, the movie offers few insights into Tom’s split personality. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE also contains strong foul language, graphic violence, nudity, and two gratuitous sex scenes between Tom and his wife.
(PaPa, C, B, PC, Ho, LLL, VVV, SS, NNN, AA, DD, M) Strong pagan worldview extols violence as a necessary, but tragic, evil but also seems to say that violence begets more violence, with church mentioned and two lead characters wear Christian crosses, but Christianity is only used as an iconic device to represent the quiet lifestyle of an idealistic Middle America, which is invaded by modern nihilistic villains, as well as some moral elements, such as man tries to make peace with violent estranged brother, but brother will have none of it, and man with a violent past tries to protect his family, and one politically correct, homosexual element where teenage bully enjoys calling his victim a “faggot”; 41 mostly strong obscenities, 10 strong profanities and seven light profanities; very strong, excessive violence includes point blank shootings, implied murder, corpses lying in pools of blood, man points gun at child and shoots her to death (only the gun shooting is overtly shown), woman threatened with rape and sexual harassment, man stabbed in foot, coffee gruesomely scalds man’s face, man’s nose punched through his head, man shot point blank in forehead, arm graphically broken during fight, and threats of violence; depicted oral sex, depicted rough intercourse and passionate hugging between married couple, and villain gropes woman’s clothed breast and threatens to rape her; rear male and female nudity during sex, and full female nudity when a wife (wearing an open robe) walks angrily into a bathroom; alcohol use and man appears to be slightly drunk; smoking, and marijuana use by two teenagers; and, lying, bullying and teenage bully repeatedly calls another teenager a “faggot”.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is adapted from an adult comic book that combined the comic book format with serious drama. Like ROAD TO PERDITION starring Tom Hanks, another movie developed from a comic book, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is neither a successful comic book movie, nor a successful drama. Its dramatic pretensions do not mesh well with its comic book intentions. It’s neither fish nor fowl, and the story is too simple for a feature-length movie.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE opens with two killers slaughtering the staff of an isolated motel and killing a little girl. The two killers walk into Tom Stall’s small diner and threaten Tom and the people there. Tom expertly dispatches the killers and becomes a local TV hero.
One day, while Tom and his beautiful wife are in the diner, Fogarty, a gangster from Philadelphia, walks in and accuses Tom of being a gangster who disappeared almost 20 years ago after scarring Fogarty’s face. Tom lies and denies it. His wife and the local sheriff believe him, but Fogarty keeps bothering Tom and his family, including his teenage son and little daughter. Events come swiftly to a head, Tom’s wife learns the truth, and Tom must resume his former violent identity in order to stay free and alive.
The family dynamics in A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE are overwrought. Some people in the audience were even laughing at some situations and characters, especially a subplot involving Tom’s son and a bully that affects Tom’s relationship with his son. Furthermore, the violent gangsters are caricatures, and some themes are brought up and then dropped, or not elaborated upon by the rest of the movie. Finally, the movie offers few insights into Tom’s split personality. His character remains pretty much a blank, as does the movie’s ambiguous, unimpressive vision and worldview.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE also contains strong foul language, graphic violence and two gratuitous sex scenes between Tom and his wife. There is also a gratuitous shot of full female nudity as Tom’s wife, who’s in an opened robe, walks angrily into their bathroom.