There's something strange about A History of Violence. It keeps threatening to burst into full thriller-mode but never does, like it's holding back. It gets by on extremely violent action scenes that seem purposefully muted. The camera is pointed at these things but it doesn't scream and shout at you. It's a calm thriller. Viggo 'I'm not just Aragorn and the man from The Road' Mortensen is having problems again. After he shoots two very nasty robbers in his restaurant his face is put all over the news, and a gangster turns up asking awkward questions about his real identity. The early scenes of his family life rate so highly on the Idyllic Scale (about a 26) that I couldn't wait for the sadistic killers to turn up. And they do, pointing guns at his family and generally looking very threatening. At this point I thought there'd be some sort of thriller quest. The hero would leave home to go and hunt down the baddies, blow something up, and then go back to his family with a few scars. That doesn't entirely happen. It's more of a drama with violent bits. A serious film with shotguns.
The little town is almost too perfect though. It's too clean and shiny, like The Truman Show. Intentional? Maybe. It's surreal and uncomfortable, like the hero's character. It's just a bit off-putting. The best scene in the film has the camera positioned behind a window, looking out on a confrontation in the garden. A fly buzzes around the window and vibrates on the glass. A nice metaphor, but it also gives the scene an edge. It's annoying and distressing - makes you fidget. And David Cronenberg made The Fly, so... yeah.