Thursday, July 16, 2009

Straw Dogs

Film: Straw Dogs (1971)
Dir: Sam Peckinpah
Rating: **** out of 5 stars

I went into this film with a complete misunderstanding of its plot, and for that I am thankful. On the surface, it looks like a violent drama about rape and revenge, but Peckinpah delivers much more than that. It is truly about masculinity, self-preservation, and dignity. It addresses the lengths to which humans will go to protect what is ours - be it woman, home, or moral integrity.

Dustin Hoffman portrays David Sumner, a physicist who moves to a small English village with his wife Amy in hopes of peace and quiet. While the local handymen gawk at Amy and make her uncomfortable, David prefers not to cause trouble. Gradually, the tense situation escalates as their marriage becomes strained, and the locals become more intrusive. Before long, circumstances force David to take a stand and defend his home. Much violence ensues.

Without giving away too much, I was surprised at the catalyst for Dogs' infamous climax. It was nothing like I had expected, which is great. It forces you to question your own moral integrity on a few levels, whereas I was sorta just expecting an emotionally two-dimensional bloodbath. David's transformation is far more complex than I had imagined. Needless to say, Hoffman is fantastic - completely believable as both weenie and badass. Susan George is also good as Amy (anyone else see a resemblance to Summer Glau?).

For similar fare, check out The Backwoods. It is a weaker, more shallow version of Straw Dogs, but the cast is top-notch.