16 April 2012

Movies: A History of Violence

A History of Violins
Actually, this isn't a review for A History of Violins. So sorry, violin history seekers.

A History of Violence
(2005) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0399146/

Drama Thriller

The cold open shows us a couple of bad guys on the road and establishes how bad they are, Then we switch to Tom Stall. He owns a diner in a small Indiana town, has a wife, a daughter, and a teenage son. They establish the son is the target of bullying by the jocks at school and rather submissive.
So, since they showed us the two bad guys they of course end up in Tom's diner. Checkov's gun, you know? They try their bad guy ways with their guns and stuff, only Tom ends up killing them both. I won't say how, but it's a decent action scene. Tom's deed hits the papers, then the thriller drama really begins moving.

Stars Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) as Tom. Maria Bello as his wife. Ashton Holmes (Tyler on Revenge, which I've never watched) as the son. Plus some awesome Ed Harris, William Hurt and Peter MacNeill performances.  Great casting for the most part.

Which brings me to why I watched this film today.
I watched this film a few years ago and decided I wouldn't watch it again for one particular reason. Then, today, I decided I'd watch the film specifically for the very reason I planned on never watching it again.
Lemme explain.
See, I had just watched "Dream House" and remarked that the little girls cast in the film did well in their roles. After making note of that I made a point to bring up "A History of Violence" as contrast. Not because the films are anything like each other, but because of the little girl cast as Tom's daughter. She's terrible.
Six minutes in to the film and I wanted to stop watching the film specifically because of her awful performance.  So clear was that memory from the first time I watched the film that I watched it again expressly to see if I still felt the same way.
Yep. Absolutely.
The girl is terrible and almost completely derails the film six minutes in. The only saving grace is she thankfully doesn't have a whole lot of scenes that require paying attention to her. Just don't look at her unless absolutely necessary. Her physical acting without speaking is as terrible as her voice acting. ADR didn't help at all.

So yes, after all this time, the most memorable thing about the film to me was how terrible that girl was in her role. And watching it again confirms it. I really hate to crack on terrible actors because I'm not an actor thus they're getting more film roles than me. But I figure I do get to have some say as a consumer. And as a consumer, she was terrible. I generally like Viggo Motensen's and Maria Bello's performances as well, but that whole family sequence six minutes in seems to me especially bad. I blame the girl.

As for Viggo's performance, he did good but I sort of wished for a bit more nuance. He delivers the first half of the film so convincingly that his transformation seems a little off. I wish he had nuanced the requirements of his character a little more. Oh well, I blame the little girl for that too. Might as well.
There is one early Mortensen-Bello scene that seemed a little too lengthy than needed for the film, less is more. But I pick nits at this point because when I'm put off by a performance that fast in a film I'm on edge. Again - blame the girl, even though she was nowhere near that scene.

If you do make it past the daughter it is an interesting story to watch unfold. I like where it goes and how it gets there. The film does get violent in its good short-but-effective action scenes.

Despite my gripes I did like most of the rest of the film. Probably worth watching once if you like the 'past comes back to bite you' type thriller dramas. That statement shouldn't be spoiler-y, I mean, the title of the film says it. Right?

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