A History of Violence obviously belongs in the “Drama” section of your local video store (assuming you have one), but I’ve always thought of it as an action film. The film does not contain a great amount of it, true, but when David Cronenberg does arrive at some violent business, he gets into in a way that put many contemporary action films to shame.
And that is why the film sticks with me. I have seen and enjoyed most of Cronenberg films, but I admit he’s not really my guy. For various reasons, A History of Violence has somehow become the film I’ve seen the most. I watched it that first time. I showed it to people. I watched it for a class once. Maybe it isn’t Cronenberg’s best film. Certainly it disappoints the surface level expectations many have for the director. I think it might be my favorite anyway.
I want to blame the wonderful violence - which, when it comes, remains fast and sudden and incredible - but I believe it might all come down to Viggo Mortensen’s performance as a man who embodies an aw shuck’s wholesomeness to such an extent that even when you know the film’s outcome, you still believe the rouse. Witnessing such a natural, solid persona explode into lethal, instinctive violence at the drop of a hat provides a thrill I always look forward to. And then you have that wacky William Hurt appearance coming down the pike as well. No, there aren't any bathtubs made out of shiny fat or whatever, but it's still a great movie.