DVD REVIEW: A History of Violence

New Line
Movie •••• Picture/Sound •••• Extras •••
What do you get when you put a mainstream Hollywood tale of retribution in the hands of a director best known for edgy, sometimes bizarre movies? If he's David Cronenberg, you get a lesson in the power of visionary filmmaking that today's big studios would be wise to learn. A History of Violence has a relatively straightforward premise about a couple whose lives are transformed by a random act. But the movie does show how Cronenberg can take a little substance and run with it, especially when he's smart enough to cast talented actors like Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello instead of bigger-name stars. The picture is nearly flawless, delivering the rich, burnished hues of idyllic small-town America. An unusually quiet soundtrack also serves the material well. Extras include a surprisingly dull director's commentary, a strong hour-long documentary that captures Cronenberg's unique gift for on-set creativity, and four featurettes on a fantasy sequence that was wisely cut out. [R] English, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround; letterboxed (1.85:1) and anamorphic wide- screen; dual layer.