Sunday, January 01, 2006

Good Ol' Brutality

Ushered in the New Year with violence. David Cronenberg’s A History Of Violence is an adaptation of John Wagner’s graphic novel of the same name. Erstwhile mobster Tom Stall a.k.a. Joey Cussack (Viggo Mortensten) sets out to banish the ghosts of his past by making a new life for himself in the Midwest, replete with a Diner, a wife and two kids. Tragedy strikes when two highwaymen sneak into his bar and try to rob him. Tom kills them with needle precision, setting off a chain of events that unravels his hit man past and puts a looming question mark on the future of his family, and his own relationship with them. Mortensten is quietly brilliant as the tortured former gun-toter. He’s ably supported by Maria Bello, who plays his disbelieving wife.

Cronenberg revels in satiating the viewer’s appetite for bloodlust. Incidentally, the movie has very little violence but you still feel it in the gut with a force more exacting than the typical Hollywood action-adventure genre. The few scenes are pathologically neat and chic, and this viewer in particular was not left high and dry when it came to some old-style gag and punch. No small talk. No ethical dilemmas. Straight into the plexus.

If you’ve seen Crash, you’d be familiar with Cronenberg’s penchant for linking violence with sexuality. Here too, in a pivotal scene in the movie (which reminded me of the staircase rendezvous between Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez in Unfaithful), Tom and Edie (Bello) descend into a steamy bout of fast and rough sex on the stairs of their house. Animal instinct sated, the lady kicks her mendacious husband and walks off to her room.

Gritty, gutsy.

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