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A History of Violence Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    David Cronenberg's brilliant movie -- without a doubt one of the very best of the year.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    USA Today Mike Clark

    Violence is in the spirit of the hardest-hitting film noir offerings from the '50s, but far more explicit. It's also in the spirit of the Western.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    This peculiarly predictable picture has been calculated, or miscalculated, to set up certain expectations, fulfill them, and then do the same thing again, thereby giving us a chance to see what's coming and, at least in theory, be shocked when it actually comes.

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Ray Bennett

    Clever and fast-paced thriller.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    Seems deceptively straightforward, coming from a director with Cronenberg's quirky complexity. But think again. This is not a movie about plot, but about character.

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  • See all A History of Violence reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

not for kids

Complex examination of violence; not for kids.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie is not for kids. It features brutal, deft violence (based on a graphic novel, the film's title is indicative of its focus). It opens with a scene showing dead, bloody bodies (after the murders take place), then shows frequent violent acts, including bone-cracking martial arts, hand-to-hand fighting (one character has his nose pushed through his skull), shooting, knifing, and strangling. It also includes fairly explicit sexual material (including passionate kissing, a cunnilingus scene, and a frankly rough intercourse scene on a stairway). Characters curse frequently, smoke, drink, and do drugs.

  • Families can talk about the way violence destroys families in the film. Not only does Tom's current family come to distrust him once he kills the men in the diner and is identified as a former gangster, but also, his relationship with his brother, premised on violent macho codes, can only end badly. How does the movie suggest that violence is "hereditary"? How is also not so much "genetic" (as Jack's transformation when he stands up to the bullies seems as metaphorical as it is literal), but more culturally conditioned? How does the movie critique media (movies, tv news) as they celebrate violence as a means to masculine identity?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Mobsters are brutal, killers ruthless, and even the well intentioned dad has to murder his enemies.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: The film's title speaks to its concerns, and the fight scenes are rough.

  • sex false5

    Sex: Sexual imagery ranges from tender to rough, twice quite explicit.

  • language false5

    Language: Gangster talk, frequent uses of "f--k."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Smoking, drinking, some drug use.