A History of Violence is a surprisingly funny film. For a melodramatic, tragic and graphic dissection of Hollywood, America and people relationship with violence. Many of the gags are those uneasy black ones, when you see someone’s head blown off surprisingly. But what Cronenberg has done is create a sleekly entertaining movie that uses everything in its arsenal to entertain, and then slightly unsettle.

And what it has is a revelatory turn by William Hurt. There is so much that makes little sense about his Philly gangster, from his Clement Freud beard to his disingenuous grandstanding: that the character convinces. It convinces because there would be no other role for a character so over the top in here. Viggo Mortensen only really has to do one trick, and that is change accents. Maria Bello is yet again impressive as the heart of the film, mirroring our decisions on which person Mortensen is (stone cold killer, dull family man, both?). But William Hurt is a hoot. And Cronenberg knows that funny is the last thing we expect from the final reel of this film.

A lot of reviews have said that as good as A History of Violence is, it feels a bit sketchy, a nit short, a bit off. This is just a recognition that the film is for all its technical sheen, an unsettling film. It asks questions it and we cannot answer. About society, about cinema – yes – more moreover, about ourselves.