A History of Violence (2005)

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

Released 10-Aug-2006

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
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
Audio Commentary-Feature Commentary with David Cronenberg
Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg-Ed Harris Explains
Easter Egg-Viggo Plays With Plastic Fish
Easter Egg-Viggo's Birthday Cake
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 91:45
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Cronenberg

Roadshow Home Entertainment
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 Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Howard Shore

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

David Cronenberg is a director noted for transgressing accepted behaviours and social identities within his films. Cronenberg has commented that his intention in adapting John Wagner's graphic novel "A History of Violence" for the screen was 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."

Cronenberg and Sam Peckinpah before him (Straw Dogs (1971)) have explored the motivation behind the occurrence of violence and through the grotesqueness of open wounds and the discharge of endless blood by which we are repulsed and equally in awe of, both films offer a mirror of society's need and loathe of mayhem and the strange beauty of it all. The disillusioned and antagonistic protagonists of both films also present a somewhat dire issue - are these constructed images of male resentment and primitive sensations representative of a struggle for male identity in modernised society?

Both A History of Violence (2005) and Straw Dogs present the monster and moralist within the one entity and despite the twenty odd years between the productions it seems the primitive struggle for identity, salvation and worth is still a burning concern on and off-screen. These characters are more then just human agents of a storyline; through the course of the narrative we get to know these men as fractured personalities. We identify with their struggle, we understand their motives and as we celebrate their physical strength, we may recognise them as heroic but we also see the leering villain within, reaching out whenever the situation presents itself. As Cronenberg noted "the audience tends to applaud the violence, to be complicit in it, and then to be repulsed by the results of the violence".

Both these films are knowing as Cronenberg and Peckinpah present an unforgiving landscape indicative of a modernised western. Both men exist in primal isolated environments and just as Bruce Crowther stated, the traditional American hero has always been a loner; he was a hunter, a trapper, a prospector, who epitomized the American Dream but was left alone confronting the wilderness. In affect both Straw Dogs and A History of Violence are established on the eternal question of whether violence is cathartic, redemptive and justified, the same underlying principles of Western and Gangster cinema. The extreme environments of Straw Dogs and A History of Violence may not be the American West but Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and Cusack (Viggo Mortensen) respectively, are the cowboys and the wanderers of the environment with only a past, a murderous appetite and an undecided future.

David Cronenberg is no stranger to the domain of duality. In the beginning of his career his films explored artificial substances and medical infection as the catalyst for the deconstruction of the whole self but the director in the mid nineties further demonstrated the horror of the within through subjective and objective realities. With A History of Violence it may seem the director has held in reserve his trademark atrocities as the production signifies his highest budgeted studio film at $32,000,000 USD, as well as his most accessible film for the mass audience through the casting of Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Maria Bello and William Hurt. Yet within the self imposed subtleness, the film is quietly explicit within its intense universe.

Whether or not these constructive images please or repulse us, there is no doubt they affect us. Masterfully Cronenberg and Peckinpah show us the fateful worst and fantastical best which the human condition has to offer. Both films question the origin of violence - is it inherited and passed down from father to son, inversely a part of the human psyche, or is it our only method of survival in the cruel, callous, unforgiving world?

A History of Violence and Straw Dogs are multi layered, complex, precise and knowing. Both films explore violence as sexual, as survival and as chaos but we are left with a deafening silence as both men are left with a final choice. Both these tragic extreme universes are not so different from the real world as Cronenberg and Peckinpah mirror society's penchant for violence and expect the audience to be brave and understand our own need, want and disgust towards acts of violence. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian proclaimed Cronenberg through A History of Violence has damned and diverted the mainstream; the same can be said for Peckinpah's Straw Dogs as both are relentless films which force the audience to understand their own desire to be victim and victimizer.

Highly Recommended.

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

Transfer Quality


A History of Violence is presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced widescreen. The PAL transfer preserves the theatrical exhibition of the film as Peter Suschitzky's cinematography is rendered warm and realistically yet simultaneously stylised and skewed. There were minor incidents of film grain but nothing to distract from viewing the film. Overall it is an impressive transfer as the close up shots reveal much detail and depth of field. Colours are bright and distinguished. Two subtitle options are also available; English subtitles for the hearing impaired and English subtitles for Cronenberg's commentary.

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


The two audio options available are Dolby Digital 5.1 English and Dolby Digital 2.0 English. The soundtracks are flawless and encompassing even during the quietest of scenes. For example, the opening sequence includes minimal sound design and negative space but remains an encompassing experience. During the course of the film Howard Shore's score builds to a melodramatic climax as it references classic Americana. Dialogue is clear and audible. The subwoofer usage is not obtruse but rather minimal and well suited to the tense atmosphere of the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


For a single disc release of the film the DVD contains a fair amount of extras which aid the viewing of the film.


The Documentary "Acts of Violence" is split into 8 segments. Each focuses on the creation of a pivotal scene in the film. Included for each segment is behind the scenes making of footage and interviews with Cronenberg, writer Josh Olson, crew and actors. What comes through within this excellent documentary is how Cronenberg collaborates with the cast and crew to create a scene and the trust between the crew as most have worked on all of Cronenberg's films. The film was a major collaborative process and while Cronenberg is an auteur, he is also open to improvisation from actors and crew. Surprisingly Cronenberg is one of the calmest directors on set and it is a wonder where the grotesque imagery he is often associated with stems from. An engaging documentary which explains much of the subtlety and influences on the film in great detail. (66:12)

Deleted Scene

Scene 44 was a scene which appeared in the script long before Cronenberg was linked to the project, yet the scene is something Cronenberg is often associated with - a grotesque nightmare. The scene was filmed and it is a remarkable scene but it has a strange tone in contrast to the rest of the film. Cronenberg bravely cut the scene early on in the editing process and has included it on this DVD to the best of his ability with final music and special effects. The scene can be viewed with or without commentary. (2:39)


"The Unmaking of Scene 44" follows the production of the scene with behind the scenes footage. It is a complicated scene but was filmed remarkably in one shot. Excellent behind the scene footage. (7:05)


"Violence's History: United States Version vs. International Version" is a short feature explaining why there were two significant changes to the US theatrical version. (1:02)


"Too Commercial For Cannes" follows the cast and crew as the film premieres at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. Cronenberg felt the film was "too commercial for Cannes" but nevertheless arrived at the festival excited but somewhat nervous. We follow the director with the cast through the photo call and the major interview process, through to the anticipated screening. Unsurprisingly the film received a standing ovation and Cronenberg and the cast embrace and couldn't be more grateful. (8:53)

Audio Commentary

The commentary by David Cronenberg is a welcomed addition as the director's commentaries are of the highest quality. Cronenberg adds his interpretation of the complex structure of the film and while he offers no easy answers he is able to justify why he included certain explicit scenes which were not in the graphic novel. Also Cronenberg speaks in depth in regards to the Canadian production and Viggo Mortensen's commitment to his character. Also the film is filled with subtlety and Cronenberg opens up many pivotal themes which audiences may have missed.

Theatrical Trailer (2:26)

Easter Egg

Easter Egg 1 - Ed Harris Explains - Select the 'Special Features' menu entry and on the following page highlight the menu entry 'Scene 44 (Deleted Scene).' Press the 'Right' directional key and a splatter of blood will appear on the bottom right of your screen - Highlight and enter. (0:39)

Easter Egg

Easter Egg 2 - Viggo Plays With Plastic Fish- Same menu as before. With 'Random' highlighted, press the 'Left' arrow key on your remote control and a fish will appear at the bottom of the page - Highlight and enter. (0:20)

Easter Egg

Easter Egg 3 -Viggo's Birthday Cake- Select the entry 'Acts Of Violence' and on the page that follows highlight the menu entry 'Random.' Press the 'Right' arrow key on your remote control now and you will see a candle appear at the bottom of the page -Highlight and enter. (0:46)


    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.

The R4 features the International "UNCUT" version of the film while the R1 features the US "CUT" version of the film.

R1 America "US Version" - (New Line) excludes:

Please see censorship information

R4 Australia "International Version"- (Roadshow) excludes:

Please see censorship information

In short the positive of the R1 is the Script-to-Screen DVD-ROM feature while the negative is that the feature film is the US "CUT" version.
As for the R4, the positive is that the feature film is the International "UNCUT" version while the negative is that the Script-to-Screen DVD-ROM feature is absent.
I would call this a draw.

Finally the R1, R2 and R4 DVD releases do not feature the brilliant artwork conceived for the film, which can be viewed here . This is a great shame as the theatrical poster perfectly captured the essence of the film. Instead the DVD has received conventional action genre cover art. The only way to get the theatrical artwork is to purchase the HMV UK exclusive R2 DVD which includes a slipcase.
Also the R4 cover-art does not mention the addition of a director's commentary under special features. This is a mis-print and I can confirm the R4 DVD does indeed include a director's commentary.


A History of Violence (2005) is Cronenberg at his best. The production of this DVD features the film well presented and the list of extras which accompany the film explore the thematic concerns of the film and provide insightful detail into the production and critical reception of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Monday, August 21, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Brilliant till the end (spoilers) - REPLY POSTED
excellent review - REPLY POSTED
To Vanessa -
Region 1 has more features - REPLY POSTED
Theatrical poster DVD artwork in R2 (UK)... - REPLY POSTED
Commentary? - REPLY POSTED
Commentary? - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)
Re: Commentary? - Neil