Cronenberg has stated that the title of his film has three different interpretations:
1. A suspect with a long history of violence.
2. The historical use of violence as a means of settling disputes.
3. The innate violence of Darwinian evolution, in which better-adapted organisms replace those less able to cope.
You’d never anticipate the film having a short running time of just over 90 minutes by the slow pacing of the beginning, which sets up a sleepy and idyllic Indiana town. We’re introduced to Tom Stall, who enjoys a blissful family life and runs a small diner. You’ll swear you’re watching a Capra film.
But then, as might be expected, all hell breaks loose. Two bad guys walk into Tom’s diner, and for a moment there you think everybody is a goner. But with the lightning reflexes that can only come from choreographed practice, he pulls an action hero stunt and saves the day. It doesn’t take long for his face to show up all over the news.
Before long, some mobsters from Philly show up insisting that Tom is actually someone they know as Joey Cusack. Is this a “wrong man” picture in the same vein as North by Northwest? Or is something more sinister entirely?
I won’t give anything away aside from saying that Cronenberg has cut all the excess from this film to poetic effect–every scene adds something to the whole. Personally, I find it refreshing to see such a lean movie. Also, as you watch how far a man will go to protect his family, ask yourself: is violence the price of peace?