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With a career that began in the horror and science fiction genres, director David Cronenberg has always been one of the most interesting figures in the cinema. As time progressed, Cronenberg’s films turned more psychological in nature and ultimately transitioned into the mainstream. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE ($29) is from Cronenberg’s later mainstream period, and while more universally accessible, the film retains an edginess found in his earlier works. Additionally, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is one of Cronenberg’s most well received films, garnering numerous international awards and nominations.

Adapted from the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE tells the story of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), who owns and operates a restaurant in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana. Tom is a seemingly quiet family man who lives with his loving wife Edie (Maria Bello), their teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes) and young daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes). One evening two armed robbers enter Tom’s restaurant and threaten to kill one of the female employees; Tom manages to get the upper hand in the situation and kills the two robbers. The incident gets national media coverage, and the next thing we know, a Philadelphia mobster named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) shows up on Tom’s doorstep, alleging that he is really someone named Joey Cusack. Tom denies the allegation, but Fogarty isn’t easily dissuaded. Ultimately, Tom is forced to go to Philadelphia, and deal once and for all with "Joey’s" brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt). The cast of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE also includes Peter MacNeill, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk and Kyle Schmid.

New Line Home Entertainment has made A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is quite decent, but does not compare all that well to the vast majority of recent films being released on Blu-ray. For the most part, the picture is reasonably sharp and produces respectable definition. However, the picture lacks snap and dimensionality; appearing like the victim of the over-application of digital processing. Fine details are in the image, but judging from the decided waxiness of actors’ skin- someone in post-production needs a lesson of what film is supposed to look like in comparison to video. Also, that individual’s access to DNR equipment needs to be severely limited or denied altogether. Colors tend to be cool and a bit subdued, but there are sections of the film where they become more vibrant and warmer. The blacks and whites appear quite accurate, while the contrast and shadow seem fine. The elements from which A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE has been mastered appear quite clean. Film grain has been manipulated down to an artificially minimal level.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is primarily a dialogue driven film, with moments of action and gunfire interspersed. As such, the sound design is small and intimate. Sound effects are deployed throughout the soundstage in a sparing, but effective manner. The sound design concerns itself primarily with creating realistic sonic environments. As for the surround channels, they do provide active effects during key moments, as well as infusing the requisite ambience and musical fill throughout. Fidelity is very strong in terms of music and producing convincing sound effects. The bass channel adds weight, but never seems excessive. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been provided, as have English and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director David Cronenberg. The other key supplement is Acts Of Violence, an eight-part documentary, totaling sixty-six minutes of running time, which looks at the production in excellent detail. Featurettes include: Violence's History: United States Version Vs. International Version (two minutes), Too Commercial For Cannes (four minutes) and The Unmasking Of Scene 44 (seven minutes), The Deleted Scene itself and a Theatrical Trailer close out the main supplements. A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is a powerful and entertaining mainstream film from director David Cronenberg. The Blu-ray presentation isn’t all that it could have been, due to too much post-mastering digital processing. Still, the film resonates in high definition and worth checking out on Blu-ray.



A History of Violence [Blu-ray] (2005)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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