In the Dark

Limping to Hell With Good Intentions

A History of Violence
Produced and distributed by Neil' Line Cinema
Directed bv David Cronenberg
Screenplay by Josh Olson from the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke

Film titles do not come more portentous than A History of Violence. Entering a Manhattan theater to view David Cronenberg's latest cinematic lesson, I was half expecting the usher to hand me a notebook, the better to take down its finer points. To my surprise, the film largely conformed to standard Hollywood conventions, however suffused with Cronenberg's Canadian moralism. The narrative reworks, albeit in modem dress, the hoariest of western clichés—the one about the fellow who gains an unwanted reputation for gunslinging and thereby attracts sidewinders from distant parts bent on testing his deadly mettle.

The reluctant slinger in this case is a man more given to slinging hash than guns. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortenson) is a devoted husband and father living in Millbrook, Indiana, where he owns the local diner. A salt-of-the-earth sort of fellow. Stall seems unremarkable enough at first, his gentle face seems to proclaim him an inoffensive nice guy. But then there are his eyes: They are strangely mournful—or are they haunted? Either way, he is not the kind you would expect to turn violent. Or so he seems, until two thugs force his hand.

We meet these cretinous...

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