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A History of Violence(2005)
Everyone has something to hide. This is the story of a mild-mannered man named Tom Stall who lives a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife and their two children in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana. One night their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner and becomes a local hero through this act of violence. The resulting media spotlight unwittingly changes the lives of Tom and his family in ways they never could have foreseen.
For more about A History of Violence and the A History of Violence Blu-ray release, see A History of Violence Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 11, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes, Stephen McHattie
Director: David Cronenberg
» See full cast & crew
A History of Violence Blu-ray Review
A sharp examination of truth and consequence debuts on Blu-ray...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 11, 2009
Confession time. When I first saw A History of Violence in 2005, I didn't enjoy it at all. Maybe I was distracted by the row of rowdy teenagers in the back of the theater, maybe I was expecting something different from organic-horror director David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly, and Naked Lunch, just to name a few), or maybe I was simply in a foul mood. Whatever it was, I left the theater shaking my head and wondering what went wrong. But a funny thing happened to me on the way to 2009... I came to appreciate the film's understated themes, naturalistic performances, and meticulously-crafted script. It began with a single scene that lodged itself in the back of my brain and developed into an uncontrollable urge to give the film another shot. Not only did I finally see what so many others had seen before me, I realized its story was more challenging and relevant than I had ever given it credit for being. Since those dark deluded days, I've found the time to watch A History of Violence five times and I've loved it more with each viewing. It occurs to me now that I wasn't simply wrong... I was out of my mind.
Based on the 1997 graphic novel of the same name, A History of Violence tells the deceptively straight-forward tale of a small town local named Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) who stops a robbery and kills the perpetrators in the process. As he humbly attempts to shrug off the subsequent cries of "hero" from his friends and neighbors, his aw-shucks demeanor is put to the test when a disfigured out-of-towner (Ed Harris) appears and insists that Tom is secretly a hitman from Philadelphia named Joey Cusack. Tom's wife (Maria Bello) and son (Ashton Holmes) support him at first, but slowly begin to question his identity regardless of how often he proclaims his innocence. When the accusations and attacks eventually invade the Stall household, Tom decides to head for Pennsylvania and confront the source of his sudden woes: Richie Cusack (William Hurt), Joey's brother.
Cronenberg cultists may be surprised by A History of Violence -- in many regards, it doesn't even feel like it belongs in his canon. Instead of concentrating on surreal bio-organic monstrosities worming their way into existence, he offers a trio of faceless villains in the form of mistaken identity, unwanted exposure, and cyclical consequence. Along with screenwriter Josh Olson, Cronenberg seems to ponder the likelihood of maintaining one's sense of self in an increasingly interconnected society where secrets are a fading commodity. As Tom faces his past, present, and future, we're left to consider whether he's a hypocrite in hiding or an average everyman trapped between chance and circumstance. Even when the mystery of Tom's identity is finally settled, he's forced to deal with the unintended fallout of his actions. Confronted with violence that only begets more violence, he fights to prevent chaos from seeping into every aspect of his life. But regardless of his efforts, his son is affected at home and school, his marriage begins to crumble, and his community is unsure of how to embrace a hero responsible for bringing blood and death to its doorstep. Even his most intimate moments with his wife are infected by the untapped rage pulsing beneath his timid exterior.
To that end, Mortensen, Harris, Bello, and Hurt deliver stunning performances that showcase the subtleties of the film's delicately-constructed story. Mortensen continues to impress me more and more with every role; the casual flicker of his eyes and the slightest twitch of his mouth is made with specific intent. His movements and intonations are used to mold a human being out of the character set before him. Likewise, Harris is a delight, chewing scenery and gleefully dragging Tom out of his shell. A slick accent fuses unspoken threats with his scowls and his deliberate delivery gives the central mystery its momentum. Bello is a godsend; a talented actress who combines vulnerability and assuredness into a wide range of desperate reactions. Her character is arguably the most compelling protagonist and she takes advantage of every second of screentime. And Hurt? While he doesn't show up until the third act, his presence can be felt from the very beginning. When he finally appears, his breezy command of his environment and everyone in it makes his character the culmination of everything Tom fears.
I know there are people out there who consider A History of Violence to be a plodding, overrated bore -- I know, I was one of them -- but a close examination of the film's honest character interactions and unexpected plot developments reveal it to be something different... something wholly unique. Don't be fooled into thinking its methodical characters are simpletons, that its carefully orchestrated plot is overly simplistic, or that its story is standard genre fare. Cronenberg and Olson's foray into small town life is a calculated study of our precarious existence and the ease with which violence can permeate and infect every corner of our lives.
A History of Violence Blu-ray, Video Quality
A History of Violence features a decent 1080p/VC-1 transfer that clearly bests the standard DVD, but still suffers from a few mindnumbing issues all its own. Once again, Warner has slathered one of their films with DNR in an effort to subdue grain and, once again, I cannot wrap my head around their reasoning. Why a 2005 production warrants such overzealous tampering is beyond me, but I suppose the Powers-That-Be are working overtime to ensure grain-haters won't have anything to complain about... except for DNR's glaring side effects. What side effects, you say? Facial textures are smudged (or eliminated, as is sometimes the case here), moving objects often exhibit slight motion smearing, and the clarity of the image's fine detail is reduced (or hindered altogether). It may not matter to someone with a 37" LCD TV, but it'll begin to bother anyone with a larger screen. As it stands, this disc boasts one of the more distracting applications of DNR I've encountered. It doesn't help that edge enhancement has been applied to the transfer as well (presumably to compensate for the softness brought on by the intrusive noise reduction). Actors, buildings, and powerlines set against Cronenberg's bleak skies are plagued by thick white halos that are distracting, to say the least.
Luckily, the remaining picture quality is impressive enough to allow the BD to improve upon its DVD counterpart. Colors are more vibrant (especially reds), skintones are more lifelike, and the palette is more naturally saturated than before. Some mediocre contrast leveling flattens the image throughout, but deep (albeit oppressive) blacks and comfortable whites inject some much-needed dimensionality into the proceedings. Even though it annoyed me to no end, I admit that detail has received a notable boost as well. Better still, I didn't catch signs of significant artifacting, swarming source noise, or bothersome banding. I can't wait for the day that studios wise up and realize post-processing nonsense like DNR and EE subvert the beauty of their films but, for now, A History of Violence offers a passable presentation that should please fans looking for improved visuals.
A History of Violence Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Thankfully, the immersive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track Warner has mastered for A History of Violence soothed my disappointment and slapped a smile back on my face. Far from the action-packed thriller its trailers suggest, Cronenberg's well-paced character drama is mainly populated with hushed conversations, whispered threats, and quiet locales. To that end, dialogue is crisp and perfectly prioritized, the rear speakers deliver plenty of subtle ambient effects, convincing acoustic qualities, and precise directionality. Even minor effects (a tightening garrote, shifting gravel, and the faint squeak of bed springs among them) have been painstakingly crafted to sound as realistic as possible. Moreover, the combination of these effects in a single space creates an enveloping sonic experience that has more than its share of memorable moments. While several scenes are a bit front-heavy, I continually found myself dwelling within the track's believable soundfield rather than listening to it as a casual observer.
When violence does erupt on screen, it arrives with aggressive LFE support and powerful dynamic presence. Gunfire pierces the soundscape with ease, physical blows have genuine heft and weight, and several standout sequences sound fantastic. Sure, the overall track is uneven and at-times underwhelming, but any shortcomings I encountered should be attributed to the film's reserved sound design rather than the technical prowess of its lossless audio mix. All things considered, newcomers and Cronenberg junkies should be equally pleased with everything they hear.
A History of Violence Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of A History of Violence includes all of the special features that appeared on the 2006 Platinum Series DVD. While the video content is still presented in standard definition, it's an impressive supplemental package that feels quite different than most other releases and well worth your precious time.
A History of Violence Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As a humble convert to its fold, I have to admit A History of Violence is a refreshing breath of air in a genre that's been suffocated by tiresome cliches and predictable plots. Cronenberg has once again proven himself to be a master filmmaker... even when venturing into unfamiliar territory. Alas, the film's Blu-ray debut is a bit hit-or-miss. While it offers an excellent lossless audio track and a generous collection of compelling special features, it includes a problematic video transfer that's drowning in DNR and edge enhancement. The overall picture quality renders the BD superior to the previously-released DVD, but I'm sure it could have looked much better. Even so, fans of the film will find the disc's reasonable price-tag and positive attributes outweigh any such technical issues. If you haven't seen A History of Violence, give it a chance. If you've already been swayed by its nuanced wiles, toss your old DVD aside and pick up this high-def upgrade.
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A History of Violence Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amadeus; A History of Violence for February - October 20, 2008
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the Oscar-award winning/nominated films 'Amadeus: Director's Cut' and 'A History of Violence' to Blu-ray on February 10th. Both films will be presented in 1080p VC-1 video accompanied by 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. ...
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