Yes, *that* David Cronenberg
I've seen dozens of movies based on comics, but A History of Violence may be the first time I'm reviewing one without having read the comic first. But, given that most movie goers have no idea films like Ghost World, Men in Black, Cowboys and Aliens, 30 Days of Night, and many other films come from a comic book parentage, it probably doesn't matter much.
A History of Violence comes from the crime comic renaissance which has given us such series as 100 Bullets and Gotham Central and given birth to films like From Hell, Sin City and The Road to Perdition.
The story involves a man who is unwittingly thrust into the limelight, only to have his past 'history of violence' resurface to threaten his seemingly idyllic rural life.
I grew up watching the films of David Cronenberg, and like many of his fans, I always knew that he was a fantastic director, although convincing people to look beyond the genre and effects of his pschedelic/shock horror work at the tautness of his direction was always a struggle... but not here. A History of Violence, being the character-driven non-supernatural film that it is seems to have finally netted the director some of the acclaim he's so long deserved.
The acting is uniformly excellent. Everyone here, from the minor parts of high school bullies on up to the top mobsters are totally believable and defy the standard clichés.
A History of Violence may not be the end-all-be-all of crime films, but it certainly has enough to keep you riveted from beginning to end.