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History of Violence, A
New Line Cinema

History of Violence, A reviews
Critic Score
Metascore: 81 Metascore out of 100
User Score  
6.8 out of 10
based on 37 reviews
Read critic reviews
How did we calculate this?
based on 479 votes
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MPAA RATING: R for strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Ashton Holmes, Heidi Hayes, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk, and Peter MacNeill

Tom Stall (Mortensen) is living a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife (Bello) and their two children in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana, until one night their idyllic existence is shattered when Tom foils a vicious attempted robbery in his diner. (New Line Cinema)


GENRE(S): Drama  |  Suspense/Thriller  
WRITTEN BY: Josh Olson
John Wagner (graphic novel)
Vince Locke (graphic novel)
 
DIRECTED BY: David Cronenberg  
RELEASE DATE: DVD: March 14, 2006 
Theatrical: September 23, 2005 
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes, Color 
ORIGIN: USA 

Named Best Picture of 2005 by the Toronto Film Critics Association. Nominated, Golden Palm, 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

What The Critics Said

All critic scores are converted to a 100-point scale. If a critic does not indicate a score, we assign a score based on the general impression given by the text of the review. Learn more...

100
Rolling Stone Peter Travers
Other films this year will have to sweat bullets to match the explosive power and subversive wit of David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. It slams you like a body punch and then starts messing with your head.
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100
The New York Times Manohla Dargis
A masterpiece of indirection and pure visceral thrills, David Cronenberg's latest mindblower, A History of Violence, is the feel-good, feel-bad movie of the year.
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100
USA Today Mike Clark
Violence is in the spirit of the hardest-hitting film noir offerings from the '50s, but far more explicit. It's also in the spirit of the Western.
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100
Chicago Reader Jonathan Rosenbaum
This masterpiece, an art film deftly masquerading as a thriller, seems to celebrate small-town pastoralism and critique big-city violence, but this position turns out to be double-edged.
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100
Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum
David Cronenberg's brilliant movie -- without a doubt one of the very best of the year.
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100
Film Threat Michael Ferraro
This is definitely not your typical Cronenberg. No matter if you either love his cinematic oddities, or if you’re put off by them, watching A History of Violence would prove beneficial. It’s no doubt one of the best films of the year.
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91
Portland Oregonian Shawn Levy
It's Cronenberg's most mainstream work, and yet it has all the power of his creepiest nightmares.
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90
Salon.com Andrew O'Hehir
Although Josh Olson's script was originally based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, it has now unmistakably become a Cronenberg movie, and one of his finest.
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90
Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan
A ticking time bomb of a movie, a gripping, incendiary, casually subversive piece of work that marries pulp watchability with larger concerns without skipping a beat.
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90
LA Weekly Scott Foundas
Cronenberg holds up a mirror, but he leaves it up to us to recoil at what we see.
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90
Village Voice J. Hoberman
Cronenberg's movie manages to have its cake and eat it--impersonating an action flick in its staccato mayhem while questioning these violent attractions every step of the way.
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89
Austin Chronicle Marjorie Baumgarten
A History of Violence poses the right question: Are those who don't study history doomed to repeat it?
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88
Miami Herald Rene Rodriguez
It's a punchy, straight-up genre picture, a crime drama that might have once starred Charles Bronson or Steven Seagal.
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88
Boston Globe Wesley Morris
The film has the perverse intelligence of Cronenberg's other movies. It's not his best, but it is certainly his most accessible, least stagy work, obeying the laws of chronology and serving up characters whom we recognize as people.
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88
The Globe and Mail (Toronto) Rick Groen
From its quiet opening sequence to its silent final shot, everything about A History of Violence is deceptive, and deceptively simple.
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88
Philadelphia Inquirer Steven Rea
Cronenberg's movie is eerily compelling and darkly humorous. And chilling - to the bone.
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88
Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert
Seems deceptively straightforward, coming from a director with Cronenberg's quirky complexity. But think again. This is not a movie about plot, but about character.
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88
TV Guide Maitland McDonagh
For all the bloodshed, it's fundamentally a cold, cold fable, the icy whisper that turns every happy thing to ash.
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83
Christian Science Monitor Peter Rainer
It ranks high on the Cronenberg scale as one of his more disturbing forays into depravity.
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80
Time Richard Corliss
It turns a hot topic into a pretty cool entertainment--one that satisfies the viewers' need for righteous revenge while leaving them a queasy little question on the way out: Does gun diplomacy make sense only in movies? Or do Americans want it to play out in real life?
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80
The Onion (A.V. Club) Keith Phipps
Ed Harris and William Hurt deliver inspired turns as the villains.
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80
The Hollywood Reporter Ray Bennett
Clever and fast-paced thriller.
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80
Washington Post Desson Thomson
A sobering reflection on our culture's attitude toward violence.
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80
Empire Adam Smith
Cronenberg's best for a long time -- broad and entertaining enough for those unacquainted with the director's work, but layered with the themes of infection and mutation that have defined it.
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80
New York Magazine Ken Tucker
I'd like to hear from some women about the sole scene I didn't buy--Bello getting angry, then super-turned-on when she learns about her calm Tom's tough-guy origins--but otherwise, A History of Violence is a remarkably convincing examination of heroism, hero worship, and the seductive allure of villainy.
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75
San Francisco Chronicle Mick LaSalle
But for director David Cronenberg and the commitment of his actors, A History of Violence might have been a cartoony action film. Its origins are in a cartoon, of sorts -- specifically, in a graphic novel, by John Wagner and Vince Locke.
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75
New York Post Lou Lumenick
Solid entertainment value for the money, but those who think it's saying anything new or profound are kidding themselves.
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75
ReelViews James Berardinelli
Although there's little wrong with the first two-thirds, A History of Violence slides onto a tangential path during its final act, and this misstep reduces the production's overall effectiveness.
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75
Chicago Tribune Allison Benedikt
If this all sounds very heavy, well, it is, but it's also very, very funny. Cronenberg may want to say something important about violence, but he's also head over heels for it, ending each gunfight and neck-breaking with a close-up on the victim, blood either pooling behind his head or brains spilling from his face. Big laughs.
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75
Seattle Post-Intelligencer William Arnold
It's absorbing and often excruciatingly suspenseful, and it gives Viggo Mortensen a strong, change-of-pace vehicle to follow up his "Lord of the Rings" triumph.
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75
New York Daily News Jami Bernard
Don't let the slow, deliberate pace fool you. A lot is going on in David Cronenberg's masterful A History of Violence, and you'll miss it if you blink.
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70
Variety Todd McCarthy
Lack of depth, complexity or strangeness make this a relatively routine entry for the director.
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70
Slate David Edelstein
Over-the-top and shockingly vicious. But what strikes some critics as complexity feels to me like shame--the shame of Cronenberg, an uncompromising director whose bloodshed has always been genuinely horrifying.
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58
Baltimore Sun Michael Sragow
A History of Violence is a hollow story from an empty graphic novel.
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50
The New Republic Stanley Kauffmann
This sort of investigation has been done so masterfully by Sam Peckinpah in "The Wild Bunch" and Oliver Stone in "Natural Born Killers" that, in a sternly utilitarian sense, we don't need Cronenberg. He is not, as far as I have seen, in their class. He proves it again in A History of Violence.
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50
Dallas Observer Robert Wilonsky
Sometimes junk is junk, no matter how fancy the platter upon which it's served. Which isn't to say A History of Violence is useless junk. It provides a few pleasures and a few giggles; it's a comedy, after all, an action movie in which things unfold at a deadpan pace.
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50
Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern
This peculiarly predictable picture has been calculated, or miscalculated, to set up certain expectations, fulfill them, and then do the same thing again, thereby giving us a chance to see what's coming and, at least in theory, be shocked when it actually comes.

What Our Users Said

Vote Now!The average user rating for this movie is 6.8 (out of 10) based on 479 User Votes
Note: User votes are NOT included in the Metascore calculation.

Raymond G gave it a10:
Excellent, gripping film! Very complex and moving. Loved the performances of all the main characters, especially Viggo Mortensen's. His character's dilemma is related to that of Matt Damon's in "The Bourne Identity." Very taut and economical. I will remember it for a long time. Maria Bello and William Hurt also do wonderful jobs.

Kevin A gave it a1:
Metacritic needs to get an "Incomplete" rating. I watched 15 minutes of this and turned it off - the writing, the acting, everything was so unbelievable, so unbelievably lame (yes, lame) that I could not even get to the first turning point. Oy.

S P. gave it a0:
A History of Violence is, no holds barred, the worst movie I have ever seen. Every part of the movie (writing, directing, producing, camera angles, acting) appeared to have been fulfilled by the equivalent of a high school student attempting to complete his end-of-the-semester project the night before it was due. Case in point: The horrendous cheerleader love scene. Whoever wrote that part of the script can feel slightly less bad about his lack of talent by comparing himself to the lumpen who shot the scene.

I H gave it a2:
Oh God. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it scored 81 here. And so many 100s. Incredible. Personally, I think it's.. well... not crap, but pretty dran close. Sure, it might try to tell something about our culture and violence, but really, it does in an awfully painful way. The plot of this movie is about as predictable and uninteresting as it gets, bloody hell, first and only time I saw it I guessed the ending within the first quarter of the film. And yes, terrible dialog, not that good acting (great actors though, just.. not in this movie), and it's terribly obvious it's only made to make money on the juicy violence. Hypo-bloody-critical, that's what it is.

Nick A. gave it a9:
Reading some of the reviews I'm beginning to wonder whether there are two versions of this film! This was a superb insight into marriage, betrayal, revenge and the darker side of the human spirit. It asks some interesting questions mainly just how much will we forgive for love, can we ever truly leave our past behind, can we be two people at the same time, and for parents practice what you preach! The inter-play between Mortensen and his wife is superb,perhaps the best scene is the understated last reel. So subtle but so brilliant. A great film and a major return to form by David Cronenberg.

Pat T. gave it a10:
I am generally appalled by the gratuitous violence of so many films these days, yet still I found myself drawn to the flawed protagonist. In spite of its brute force, this is a nuanced movie, with scenes of extreme violence juxtaposed with domestic scenes of calm beauty. Even the brass score adds energy and tension, and the ending was a nice touch as well, with its lack of resolution but hint of hope. Ultimately, this film appeals to that very basic human satisfaction of seeing the bullies, mobsters, and thrill killers of the world get their due at the hands of the underdog.

Riren gave it a4:
This movie makes no statement about violence in our culture. Our "hero" discovers one day that he's very good at killing people and that he has some ties to a vicious and vague mob/mafia. How could he not know such things about himself? The eventual explanation is pathetic. As we wait for the reveal, with minimal suspense or intrigue along the way, there is an overgrown subplot about his son's aptitude for violence, which is promptly dropped after putting us through a terrible and cliched roll of high school angst. It is not resolved midway through the movie; it is forgotten. None of the characters are fully realized, and most don't pass one dimension. Every attempt at two-dimensional characters is forced. The movie has good actors who make a handful of the scenes quite entertaining, but there is nothing else worthwhile in it. It's a movie that banks on its premise, then fails to deliver, and never develops a plot; instead, it throws disjointed scenes at you. Worse still, while it doesn't develop a plot, it is uncomfortably boring. Movies based on superheroes understand storytelling far better than this grittier graphic novel joint.

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