A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
After a mild-mannered small-town family man, Tom (Viggo Mortensen), kills two thugs robbing his diner, the ensuing publicity brings a shiny Cadillac of bad guys to town. They think Tom is somebody they know -- somebody bad; Tom say's he ain't. This mystery -- if in fact, it is a mystery -- is the focus of David Cronenberg's drama, adapted from a graphic novel. Through vignettes strung across Tom's dilemma, History mulls over -- and occasionally flat-out depicts -- man's inclination to violence. Yet it never really probes why we celebrate some violence -- in the name of defense, revenge or, as in this film, for comic relief -- while condemning other episodes. History sets the stage for a provocative psychological thriller, but I found its intentions betrayed by the sparseness of the graphic-novel antecedents, leaving a lot of holes between its dramatic bursts, and by the film's odd shifts in tone. (AH)

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