A History of Violence is a 2005 American crime thriller film directed by David Cronenberg and written by Josh Olson. It is an adaptation of the 1997 graphic novel of the same name by John Wagner and Vince Locke. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as the owner of a diner who is thrust into the spotlight after killing two robbers in self-defense.
Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is a local restaurant owner in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana. One night two men (Leland Jones and Billy Orser) attempt to rob the restaurant. When one of the criminals is about to kill the waitress, Tom deftly kills both robbers, and his actions make him an overnight celebrity. He is soon visited by scarred gangster Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) who alleges that Tom is actually a gangster named Joey Cusack, who had dealings with him in the Irish Mob in Philadelphia many years ago. Tom vehemently denies these accusations and claims he has never been to Philadelphia, as well as never meeting him before, but Fogarty remains persistent in his claims and continues to stalk the Stall family. Under pressure from Fogarty and his newfound fame, Tom's relationships with his wife Edie (Maria Bello), teenage son Jack (Ashton Holmes), and young daughter Sarah (Heidi Hayes) become strained.
Following an argument with Tom over the use of violence after he brutally assaults a bully at school, Jack runs off and is caught by Fogarty. With Jack as his hostage, Fogarty and his men go to the Stall house and demand that "Joey" return with them to Philadelphia. Tom kills Fogarty's men with the same precision he used against the robbers, while Jack kills Fogarty with a shotgun in defense of his father. At the hospital, Edie confronts Tom, claiming that while he was attacking Fogarty's men, she saw "the real Joey" that Fogerty was talking about. Tom shocks Edie by admitting that he is actually Joey Cusack, and that he had killed for both money and pleasure. He tells Edie that he ran away from Philadelphia to escape his violent criminal past. This admission furthers the tensions in their marriage.
After Tom gets out of the hospital, Sam, the local sheriff pays him a visit. Sam expresses his confusion about everything that happened. He tells them that these mobsters wouldn't go to all this trouble if they weren't sure they had the right man. Just when Tom is about to confess, Edie defends him and lies to Sam, claiming that Tom is who he says he is, and their family has suffered enough. At a loss for words after Edie breaks down into tears, Sam leaves. Edie and Jack further distance themselves from Tom, leaving him isolated.
Tom receives a call from his brother Richie Cusack (William Hurt), who also demands his return to Philadelphia, or else he will come to him. After traveling to Philadelphia and confronting his brother, Tom learns that the other mobsters whom he had offended in Philadelphia took out their frustrations on Richie, preventing him from moving up in the organization. Tom offers to make peace, but Richie orders his men to kill him. Tom manages to defend himself and kills the guards before gunning down Richie.
Tom returns home, but the atmosphere is tense and silent as the family sits around the dinner table. The fate of his marriage and the future of his life as Tom Stall is uncertain, but Jack and Sarah indicate their acceptance of their father by setting a plate for him and passing him some food.
- Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall/Joey Cusack
- Maria Bello as Edie Stall
- Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty
- William Hurt as Richie Cusack
- Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall
- Peter MacNeill as Sheriff Sam Carney
- Stephen McHattie as Leland Jones
- Greg Bryk as Billy Orser
- Kyle Schmid as Bobby
- Sumela Kay as Judy Danvers
- Gerry Quigley as Mick
- Deborah Drakeford as Charlotte
- Heidi Hayes as Sarah Stall
- Aidan Devine as Charles "Charlie" Roarke
- Bill McDonald as Frank Mulligan
- Michelle McCree as Jenny Wyeth
- Ian Matthews as Ruben
- R. D. Reid as Pat