History of Violence, A (Blu-ray) (Reel) (2005)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 6-Mar-2013

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Feature Commentary with David Cronenberg
Featurette-"Acts Of Violence"
Deleted Scenes-Scene 44 - Optional Commentary by David Cronenberg
Featurette-The Unmaking of Scene 44
Featurette-Violence's History: United States Version vs. International
Featurette-Too Commercial For Cannes
Theatrical Trailer-Feature Commentary with David Cronenberg
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 95:43
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Cronenberg

Reel DVD
Starring Viggo Mortensen
Maria Bello
Ed Harris
William Hurt
Ashton Holmes
Peter MacNeill
Stephen McHattie
Greg Bryk
Kyle Schmid
Sumela Kay
Gerry Quigley
Deborah Drakeford
Heidi Hayes
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Howard Shore

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     A History of Violence has been recently re-issued on Blu-ray in Australia by Reel DVD in April 2013. The DVD was reviewed by Vanessa Appassamy in August 2006 here. In her excellent review she mentions how the film was adapted from John Wagner and Vince Locke's graphic novel (i.e. comic , with Locke being the illustrator), makes comparisons to the violence depicted in Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs(1971) and quotes director David Cronenberg as intending to show violence as "functional, necessary, brutal, quick and intimate. Strictly business, and without much pleasure, including sadistic pleasure involved. The violent scenes are all shot real time, no slow motion, no jump cuts, no repeated shots, no avoidance of the physical consequences for the human body."

     Film critic Roger Ebert suggests that the title has multiple meanings. In his review he states that it could refer to:

  1. a suspect with a long history of violence;
  2. the historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes, and
  3. the innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope.
"I am a complete Darwinian," says Cronenberg, whose new film is in many ways about the survival of the fittest—at all costs. Ebert adds, "of the three levels A History of Violence refers to, I think Cronenberg is most interested in the third, in the survival of the fittest. Not the good, the moral, the nice, but the fittest".

     At the very least, it's obvious that this film is meant to make the audience question the use of violence in settling conflict. There are also two graphic sex scenes included which involve Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and Edie Stall (Maria Bello), his wife. The second scene is included as a contrast to when the mafia characters from Philadelphia show up in the Stall family's life. I think the question David Cronenberg poses is this: does the need for violence change Tom's inner character, or did these change in circumstances bring the violence out of him? Much like Alfred Hitchcock used to like to do in his classic Hollywood films of the 1950s, Cronenberg I believe greatly enjoyed showing his audience here what a normal person is willing to do once they are find themselves in extraordinary circumstances.

     The aim of this review is to inform our readers in regards to the specifications of the Blu-ray in comparison to the Region 4 DVD release in 2006.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     Be warned, the main feature starts upon loading the Blu-ray disc into your player. If you choose to access the menu via your remote, you can view the special features, but the movie will play immediately after the feature has finished. To prevent this, you will need to pause the main feature and select the Pop-up menu on your remote to access the menu languages, scene selections and special features.

     A History of Violence is presented in 1080p with a VC-1 encode framed at 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

     The image transfer has an average bitrate of 18.41 mbps but has had DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) applied to it to remove grain. This makes the image look softer and a little bit more artificial.

     Colour is more vibrant and saturated than the previous DVD release.

     There are also instances of edge enhancement to smooth out the picture.

     Subtitles are available in English for the Hard of Hearing. Unfortunately, the subtitles for David Cronenberg's commentary included on the 2006 DVD release have not been ported onto this Blu-ray release.

     There is no RSDL change because the Blu-ray is presented on a single-sided BD25 disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     A History of Violence boasts a subtle soundtrack, but surround channels and the subwoofer express a dynamic atmosphere when action is portrayed on-screen.

     The main audio track is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track encode at 1212 kbps. This is louder than the second Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640 kbps. David Cronenberg's commentary is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 192 kbps.

     Dialogue is clear and synchronised.

     The musical score by Howard Shore is mainly subdued and ambient as the film is a dialogue-driven drama. I believe it was David Cronenberg's creative intention to present the score as realistically as possible, without over-embellishing the action scenes.

     At times, Surround Channel Usage is evident with gunfire and physical encounters.

     The Subwoofer provides necessary, yet understated, support for the action scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio commentary by director/co-producer David Cronenberg

     The director provides an excellent commentary detailing the adaptation of the original graphic novel, the casting choices, the production schedule and his relationship with the studio. He provides analysis of the plot and characters and discusses the themes of the movie. You will find this commentary very interesting.

"Acts of Violence" documentary (66:12)

     This eight-part documentary can be viewed in separate segments ranging in 6 to 10 minutes in length or in one viewing lasting 66 minutes. We get an in-depth discussion of the film’s themes, the sets, the actors and their characters, and the underlying message of the film. This documentary highlights how cast and crew were intimately involved in the production process in a collaborative manner.

"Scene 44" with optional audio commentary by director David Cronenberg (2:39)

     This dream sequence was in the script prior to Cronenberg been attached to the project. It demonstrates how it clashes with the 'realism' tone of the film.

"The Unmaking of Scene 44" - featurette (7:05)

     Behind the scenes footage of the dream sequence scene which was cut from the film.

"Violence's History: United States Version vs. International Version" - featurette (1:02)

     This is an explanation why there were two changes to the U.S. theatrical version.

"Too Commercial For Cannes" - featurette (8:53)

     David Cronenberg provides some funny moments during his time at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. We get to see the positive reception to the screening too.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Apart from changes to two scenes included on the U.S. cut, the Blu-ray ALL America release includes a Digital Copy and Spanish subtitles but is otherwise the same as the Blu-ray ALL Australian release.


     If you are expecting a typical revenge and retribution action film, then I suggest you look elsewhere. This release on Blu-ray has improved picture (in bitrate terms) and sound, but leaves out the 3 'Easter eggs' and David Cronenberg's commentary subtitles found on the DVD. If you are a fan of David Cronenberg's films, you will no doubt purchase this Blu-ray anyway.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
History of Violence Bluray releases - REPLY POSTED
History of Violence Bluray releases -