- This article is about the graphic novel. For the film, see A History of Violence (film). For the Jedi Mind Tricks album, see A History of Violence (album).
It is also the source for the film of the same name directed by David Cronenberg, the first cinematic adaption of a work by John Wagner since 1995's Judge Dredd. The film was the last major Hollywood film to be released on the VHS format.
The story concerns a small town Michigan cafe owner, Tom McKenna, who becomes a local hero after defending his store from an attempted robbery. When his story receives national attention, several members of the New York City Mafia arrive in town, believing him to be someone named Joey, who crossed them 20 years earlier. Tom protests his innocence to everyone, but eventually his façade is dropped and he is forced to confess his history of violence to his wife and son and eventually the police.
Namely, he and his friend performed a well planned and spectacular assassination and robbery of mobsters in their youth in retaliation for the murder of a relative. Unfortunately, Tom's friend foolishly decided to flaunt his take, which allowed the mob to identify him as one of the assailants and abduct him for revenge. Meanwhile, Tom barely escaped the same fate and fled the city with the intent of starting over with a new identity.
Fortunately for McKenna and his family, their lawyer arrives and learns that the police failed to Mirandize him, which makes his confession inadmissible in court. However, as the McKenna family is transported to the father's original city to deal with related legal matters, the mobsters learn of McKenna's detention and plan their revenge with a horrific surprise.
While the first half of the film is faithful to the source, the remainder of the film takes many liberties with the story. Some changes are relatively minor (in the film, the main character's name is Tom Stall, he lives in Indiana and the gangsters pursuing him are from a Philadelphia-based Irish Mob), the main character's brother, played by William Hurt, bears virtually no resemblance to the corresponding character in the graphic novel.
Although criticized for its graphic violence, the film's reviews were largely favorable and it garnered recognition at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as Academy Award nominations for Hurt (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role) and writer Josh Olson (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published).