WHEN it came time for David Cronenberg to choose how much violence to depict in his bloody art-house thriller "A History of Violence," the director settled upon what he terms a "practical approach": Less is more.
"It could not be balletic or slow-motion beautiful, and it could not feel choreographed," Cronenberg reasoned. "It would be nasty, brutish and short -- which is what the philosopher Hobbes said about life in general."
In the film, which opens in Los Angeles Sept. 30, small-town diner owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) kills two wanted murderers in self-defense. He becomes a local hero but gets embroiled in a high-stakes case of mistaken identity when big-city gangsters played by Ed Harris and William Hurt come looking for him. After Stall's family is threatened, the bodies start to pile up.
"For the characters, the violence is functional, necessary, justified," Cronenberg said.
To mitigate any perception of violence for violence's sake, the Canadian director, whose films often showcase sci-fi gore but seldom feature physical combat, chose to bookend each of "Violence's" fight sequences with lingering close-ups of their grisly human toll -- special emphasis given to smashed-in faces, bullet-riven torsos and coagulating blood.