A History Of Violence: I wish I had more hands so i could give it 4 thumbs down
time for a quick sanity check.
i am guilty as charged as someone who pretty much hates most movies that everyone else raves about (and i’m talking about the ostensibly “good” movies; as opposed to the obviously awful hollywood schlock mega-hit monstrosities).
so….i’d heard/read good (bordering on great) things about ‘a history of violence’. as usual, didn’t catch it in the theater. as always, ensured it was safely in my netflix queue. that’s how i roll.
ok. finally saw it.
i almost can’t articulate how AWFUL i thought it was. in the interest of time (and the fear that everyone—even, and especially the folks whose opinions in these matters i usually advocate—will disagree with me), let’s do some quick bullet points:
story: clichéd, tired and unintentionally amusing at points (any plot that you can drive a truck through that is not actually starring burt reynolds driving a truck in the late 70’s is nothing to be proud of, and nothing that should garner even mediocre props from obviously burnt-out critics who are so shell-shocked by the shit they have to sit through and so numb from trying to make so much out of so little that they pounce on anything that is being buzzed about, even if it’s the same recycled crapola).
dialogue: oh god.
acting: terrible. and what’s truly a shame is an opportunity obviously wasted: there was some not insignificant talent assembled here (although as much as i always enjoy ed harris, i don’t think he really stretches out too much in these increasingly imitative tough guy roles), but viggo was let down by a story he could do nothing with, and asked to utter words that do the wrong type of violence: to the english language, to the discerning mind. but william hurt? it’s time to put this clown out to pasture. the same man i loved in ‘altered states’ has kind of, in a sort of twilight zone perverse art-mirroring-art (or life mirroring art) trajectory, devolved just like the character from his first (and last?) great role; becoming more insufferable and exposed as someone who can’t (and NEVER should attempt) to try any sort of accent (he was in another movie a few years back called, i think, ’smoke’, which, predictably, also was highly praised and i thought was almost insultingly bad…and had hurt butchering a half-assed insufferable new yaawk accent that was cringe worthy, making me realize there should be a new rule, called the Keitel/Hurt decree: the former should never be allowed to play a character that is not from the big apple, the latter should never attempt anything but the laconic semi-drawl of the slightly spaced out thinking man’s burnout who knows better yet…keeps…on….acting….)
lastly, lest anyone think i’m being too harsh or spending too much time & energy on a movie that i obviously didn’t care for, there is some small insult in the way this movie was reviewed and described: for a film chock-full of that many clichés, one of two things is happening: the writer/director (in this case the same, incidentally the vastly over-rated cronenberg) has gotten lazy and is substituting formula for actual thought (which is a sin), or he simply doesn’t know the difference (which is a travesty). look: clichés are the weeds of art and anyone who not only doesn’t seek to destroy them (in their own work or in that of others, hence my indignant j’accuse for the critics) but embraces them is a hack with a capital H. let them get rich, let them enjoy the spoils of their soulless schlock, but please don’t delude yourself that they are visionaries; don’t kid yourself that this crap is iconoclastic. iconoplastic perhaps.