AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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A History of Violence
Director: David Cronenberg (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Sep 2005
Duration (in mins):  96 or 98
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Cast: Viggo Mortensen  (Tom Stall [assumed name of] /Joey Cusack)
  Maria Bello  (Edie Stall)
  Ed Harris  (Carl Fogarty)

Summary: In the small town of Millbank, Indiana, Tom Stall runs the local diner, while his wife Edie runs a small law practice and rears their two children, teenager Jack and pre-schooler Sarah. Although Jack struggles with teenage angst and a bullying classmate, the family is happy with their uneventful lives, and Tom considers himself a lucky man. One quiet Saturday night, ruthless spree killers Leland and Billy drive into town and enter the diner. The self-effacing Tom allows himself to be bullied into keeping the diner open past closing time, then tells Leland to take what he wants from the till, but when Leland tells Billy to "start" with the waitress, Tom breaks the glass coffee pot against Leland's face, and in the melee that follows, grabs Leland's semi-automatic weapon, then quickly kills him and Billy, despite being wounded in the foot by Leland's knife. When Tom is released from the hospital, he does not like being labeled a hero by the television news programs, which laud him for saving the people in the diner from two spree killers, and consequently shuns a television reporter. A short time later, when Tom returns to the diner, which is crowded with customers and well-wishers, three thuggish-looking men in suits arrive, led by Carl Fogarty, who repeatedly addresses Tom as "Joey" and in a threatening manner, implies that Tom knows who he is because they knew each other years ago in Philadelphia. Edie, who is in the diner at the time, is frightened of the men and calls town sheriff Sam Carney, even though Tom wants to forget about the incident after the men leave. Later, Sam stops Fogarty's Town Car and tells him to leave Millbank, which he says is a nice town that looks after its own, then goes to Tom and Edie's house, where he tells them that Fogarty is a known mob killer, as are his two henchmen. Sam then hesitantly asks Tom if he is in the witness protection program, but Tom denies this and says he does not know the men. Early the next morning, while Tom is in the diner, he sees the Town Car again and, thinking that it is driving toward his house, phones Edie and frantically tells her to grab their shotgun because the men are coming to their house. Despite his wounded foot, Tom runs home, then realizes that he was mistaken about the car. Edie, and especially Jack, are worried about what is happening, but Tom dismisses their concerns. That afternoon, when Edie takes Sarah to buy shoes in the local mall, she panics when Sarah briefly disappears, and is startled to see Fogarty sitting on a bench looking at the child. Fogarty, whose face is badly scarred and missing an eye, says that Joey Cusack did that to him and he wants to speak with Joey. Meanwhile, at his high school, Jack is confronted by fellow student Bobby and two of Bobby's friends, but instead of making a joke of Bobby's taunts, as he had done in the past, Jack explodes in violence and badly beats Bobby. Later, Tom rebukes Jack for his actions, saying that their family does not settle things with violence, but Jack sarcastically responds that, instead, their family kills people. Tom angrily slaps Jack, causing the boy to run off. A short time later, Fogarty and his henchmen show up at the house, with Jack in the backseat of the Town Car. Fogarty orders Tom to come with him or he will start to hurt Jack. Tom tells Edie to get into the house with Sarah as he gradually walks closer to Fogarty, still denying that he is Joey. When one of the thugs reaches for Tom, he suddenly disables the man with martial arts, grabs his gun, then kills another man. Fogarty then wounds Tom, but as Fogarty moves closer to him to fire the fatal shot, Tom whispers "I should have killed you in Philly." Just then, Fogarty is killed by a shotgun blast fired by Jack. That night, when Edie visits Tom in the hospital, she angrily demands that he tell her if he really is Joey. When he does not deny it, she vomits, then refuses to listen to his pleas that he spent three years ridding himself of Joey and was reborn when he met her. She runs away from him, and when Tom returns home from the hospital, he finds that his things have been moved out of their room. Sam comes to the house to say that "things" just do not add up, but when Edie comes home, she calmly assures Sam that Tom is who he says he is, then starts to cry as Tom comforts her. After Sam leaves, Tom continues to hold Edie, but she pushes him away and, rushing up the stairs, screams "Joey" at him. In the stairway, they strike each other, then have rough sex, but afterward, instead of letting Tom kiss her, she pushes him away. That night, while Tom is sleeping on the couch, he is awakened by a phone call from his brother Richie, now a prominent mob boss in Philadelphia. He agrees to Richie's request to meet with him, then drives to Philadelphia, where one of Richie's henchmen takes Tom to Richie's suburban mansion. At first Richie kisses and warmly embraces his younger brother, but in his study, Richie tells Tom that his impetuousness has cost him a lot over the years and he must pay the price. While they talk, Richie's henchman grabs Tom from behind, trying to strangle him with a wire, but Tom puts his hand through the loop and overcomes him, then kills two other henchmen, first striking them with killing blows, then shooting them with the gun he picks up. After Tom runs out of the study, another henchman arrives, and Richie starts to leave the house through the open front door. Tom, however, has not left the house, and catching Richie and his henchman unaware, kills them. Early in the morning, Tom throws his weapon into a pond on Richie's property and ponders his fate. Later, he returns to his home as Edie, Sarah and Jack are eating dinner. After a few moments, Sarah silently sets a place at the table for her father and Jack passes the roast to him as Edie looks at Tom and he expectantly looks toward her. 

Distribution Company: New Line Cinema
Production Company: New Line Cinema
Director: David Cronenberg (Dir)
  Walter Gasparovic (1st asst dir)
  Robert Warwick (2d asst dir)
  Tyler Delben (3d asst dir)
  Elizabeth S. D. "Duff" Parker (Trainee asst dir)
  Aric Dupere (Trainee asst dir)
Producer: Chris Bender (Prod)
  JC Spink (Prod)
  Roger E. Kass (Exec prod)
  Josh Braun (Exec prod)
  Toby Emmerich (Exec prod)
  Justis Greene (Exec prod)
  Kent Alterman (Exec prod)
  Cale Boyter (Exec prod)
  Jake Weiner (Co-prod)
Writer: Josh Olson (Scr)

Subject Major: Family relationships
  Impersonation and imposture
  Multiple murderers
  Personality change
Subject Minor: Automobiles
  Diners (Restaurants)
  High school students
  Missing persons
  Philadelphia (PA)
  Shopping malls
  Small town life
  Television news and information
  Wounds and injuries

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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