|Page 7 of 26:||               |
|Index||258 reviews in total|
Straw Dogs no longer holds any surprises for the viewer, nor is it particularly shocking. After three decades worth of revenge films that drew inspiration from it, Straw Dogs is merely a well acted and well filmed suspense movie. The fact that the film is relentlessly misogynistic and paints the rural English as addled yokels doesn't help matters. Worth seeing, but you'll probably be disappointed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Sam Peckinpah never really was known for the subtlety or
charitably in his films, but he has really surpassed himself with the
cruelty "Straw Dogs". This is an ultimately rude and rancorous film
and, even though I'm entirely against the banning of movies in general,
it truly isn't suitable viewing for certain types of audiences. The
graphic violence and disturbing atmosphere didn't bother me at all.
Lord knows I'm all pro-violence, but in this particular movie it's
really difficult to accept how the violence is glorified! Starting
random fights, carrying around shotguns, assaulting other men's wives
and taking the law in your own hands
all these awry things are
portrayed like they're something you have to do in order to become a
REAL man. The absolute height of this wrongful illustration
unquestionable is the despicable rape-sequence halfway in the film.
Feminists and women-organizations made so many efforts to enfeeble the
whole myth, and yet Peckinpah shoots the sequence like it's the
ultimate fantasy of every man: she timidly says "no" and gives her
attacker a couple of weak slaps in the face, but she clearly means
"yes" and she even enjoys the rough hands and sweat-stinking body of a
true macho. Many 70's movies handled about rape & revenge ("Last House
on the Left", "Deliverance", "I Spit on your Grave", "A Clockwork
), but "Straw Dogs" is the only one of the bunch that
approaches the themes as completely impeccable subjects. David and Amy
Sumner are initially introduced as introvert and more educated people,
but apparently this isn't good enough for Sam Peckinpah! Real males
drink, fight, work with their hands and dominate females. Killing
everyone who perpetrates his property at the end of the movie looks
almost like a reward for David; a sign of manhood. Disgusting!
Does all this mean that "Straw Dogs" is a bad movie and/or unworthy of his classic reputation? Well, the answer is no and that's the tricky part! No matter how much I'd like to warn people NOT to watch it, I can't deny that it's a very well made film and compelling film. The build up towards the inevitably violent climax is truly fascinating. Our young couple initially encounters antipathetic behavior of the Cornish community, then hostility and only then pure inhumanity. Our controversial director masterfully illustrates these switches in tone by simple sound and editing-tricks. The scene where Amy is raped, for example, gets constantly interfered by images of David walking home from hunting, totally unaware that he was lured out of his house. Also undeniable is the influence "Straw Dogs" had on future controversial cinema. This film is completely aware of its controversy but doesn't give a damn whether or not people have moral issues it. This in-your-face attitude somewhat became a standard rule in later cult films.
In the early 2000s, there was a breakout of movies labeled as "torture
porn", which all had three main factors. First, they were intended to
make the audience feel the same utter desperation as the tortured
characters on screen. Second, they almost always had a deep social
portrayal. And, third, they were always rejected by hypocritical
critics who failed to see intelligence in desperation, then went off
and praised hollow "fine cinema" pieces for "saying something about the
human condition". These types of films have always interested me
because they mix unrelenting pace with a non-genetic message about how
humans tend to think. And I find it interesting that Straw Dogs (1971),
while not really a "torture" film, has every single aspect I just
listed. While it's gained a lot more credit today, in its time, it was
just as hated by the critics as "torture porn" is now. It's funny how
easily society can completely be in denial when a movie like Straw Dogs
says something about the human condition no one will dare say, while
society can then go and praise some completely hollow, cliché-spewing
film like (excuse the modern example) No Country for Old Men. I find
that hypocrisy almost comical. And I think, maybe, that was one of
Straw Dog's points.
So what makes Straw Dogs so intelligent? Well, first, it is simply one of the few accurate portrayals of REAL human emotion in cinema. Realism is a word that is thrown around constantly by writers/directors, but as Hollywood gets closer to what it thinks is realism, it just takes five steps back from being truly anything like how real humans think. Very few movies have ever achieved truly expressing how people interact without turning the characters into some podium to preach some idea the writer/director has, or just turning the characters into pieces of cardboard that move the plot along. Contrary to popular belief, the greatest acting in the world can't fix unrealistic characters. That works just about as much as a pretty coat of paint fixes a house that's ready to collapse in on itself. The emotion is Straw Dog's shining point. The two main characters' emotions are portrayed differently in every situation. One scene will end with a loving moment, then the next will open with a bitter one, then the next will open with completely indifference. Things that should have an emotional impact on the characters doesn't have any whatsoever. Actions that should cause them negative emotion cause them pleasure. Just when you find a character totally likable, they'll do something to ruin that feelinga lot like the betrayal of a friend. Put simply: I've seen countless movies in my life, but never once have I seen a movie with this much of a realistic emotional core.
Likewise, without spoiling anything, Straw Dogs goes where no movie in its time dared to go with its subject matter. While I wouldn't necessary call every idea presented here original, some of them are, and not a single one of them is a cliché. It's very relatable to A Clockwork Orangewhich came out the same yearin that way. I find it sad, however, that A Clockwork Orange is now considered some sort of classic, while Straw Dogs is still lesser known to the general public than a lot of foreign indie films. Straw Dogs nearly singlehandedly formed the groundwork for the thriller genre, and its influence can be seen in everything from other 70s movies to whatever cliché thriller is playing at the local theater as I type this. The ending is pure intensity, and very few movies can pull that off. The kills in the end of the film are a lot more graphic than anything I expected from a 70s film, and some are just brutal. Straw Dogs deserves more recognition.
So, if my review is entirely positive, why do I not give this a higher score? As much as I can relate to this movie, and as much as I appreciate it, I think giving this a perfect score is an insult to what the director was going for. Sam Peckinpah didn't want this film to be entertaining; he wanted it to truly disturb the viewer. Though that may be a little hard to do now in 2009, due to the countless rip-offs and rehashes of the subject matter, this is nowhere near easy viewing. Perfection is an extension of contentment, and I personally was not content with this movie. I wasn't supposed to be. It's a point-blank contradiction to the Hollywood formula that states you have to make the viewer go in their pants out of awe/contentment or you haven't done your job. That's why I can't give Straw Dogs a perfect score, but it didn't want one. It's too honest for that. It's too intelligent for that.
In 1971 Sam Peckinpah made the bitter, internally aggressive film Straw
Dogs. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, Peckinpah injected such
harsh realism in Straw Dogs which tells the story of a young couple who
moved to England to avoid the violence becoming common in America.
Isolation and class struggles are the driving issues in Straw Dogs and
Peckinpah explores such issues thoroughly and with ease.
David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his wife Amy (Susan George) are settling into their new home in Amy's native England. Fearing that America had grown too violent, pacifist David seeks to retreat to a more peaceful community. Quickly noticing many divisions in the area, the drunks/sober people, upper/lower class, David realizes idyllic England may not be as peaceful as he thought it would be. Being an astrophysicist, David enjoys a certain wealth and status that those working on his house do not. The more he is exposed to the stark class differences, the more David realizes how different England is than he thought. When a series of strange events happen in and around David and Amy's house, they both begin to believe the impoverished workers repairing their home are to blame. When David attempts to learn more about the workers and goes duck hunting with them, Amy, left home alone, is raped by two of the men. What next ensues is a violent brawl between David attempting to protect his wife and his home against the attack of the hostile men on the outside.
Peckinpah spares no expense exposing the violence that surrounds everyday life, and that so often presents itself in the class conflicts that absorb life. Such elements are crucial to explore, and Peckinpah leaves no stone unturned in his raw exploration of isolation and class struggles. As effective as this exploration proves, it falls short with the casting of Dustin Hoffman. I just don't buy him as a leading actor in any capacity ever. He comes off so one-dimensional, especially in this film. We need a somewhat quiet and unassuming lead actor, but Hoffman is not the actor. The movie was paced very slowly and becomes difficult to engage with. With no likable characters anywhere within the film, the slow pacing makes it even more difficult to engage in. A better film with the same bitter personal deterioration is Joel Schumacher's 1993 film Falling Down, starring Michael Douglas. Likewise, there are no likable characters to attach to in that film either, but it is paced well enough to become engaged in watching the story unfold. I recognize the importance of Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, but it struggles with poor pacing and Dustin Hoffman.
Can't say that I'm a fan, but I wouldn't argue that "Straw Dogs" is a
poorly made movie by any stretch - the acting is solid and the craft is
effective, sometimes brutally so. Personally, the draw was seeing
Dustin Hoffman go from massive wimp to a man of action with a fortress
to defend. But his character was the weakest aspect of the movie for me
(no pun intended).
From almost minute one, we want this guy to stand up for himself, in some capacity. I mean, it's obvious to everybody that the tormentors working on his garage are the ones behind his cat's murder. Surely the quiet English countryside has a constable the crime can be reported to. Said lawman would also be ideal recourse after they violently assault his wife. But it's when they want to invade this house that he suddenly goes on the offensive? And it's a rental!
There's plenty of controversial subject matter offered here - the rape scene is cause enough - but it's the contrived steps that lead to Hoffman's sudden transformation that turned me off. The bad guys aren't barging in because they want to rob him of his wife or his manhood - they want the town idiot/accidental murderer that's resting in the house. It's just a confluence of events that brings about the mental change. And from then on, he's unbalanced fascist.
I was hoping there'd be some sort of catharsis after his rage-fueled campaign, but there's just nothing there. It wouldn't be so bad if the movie didn't hinge on his character, but that guy just does not do anything for me.
Looking back at Straw Dogs a film that was never shown on UK television
for several decades, you get to see how influential it is. Without this
movie there would had never been Home Alone!
Director Sam Peckinpah might had been contemplating the brutality of the Vietnam war, the rising tide of violence generally in the 1960s counter-culture or just the inherent brutality of man especially when an outsider appears with a local girl.
Dustin Hoffman is a mild mannered American university maths professor who have moved into a farmhouse in rural Cornwall where his wife grew up. His wife (Susan George) is flirty, younger and provocatively dressed at times which arouses desires from her ex boyfriend (Del Henney.)
The locals are hired to repair the farm house but soon tease the couple, Del Henney takes advantage of George by forcing himself on her and soon she is also raped by one of his friends.
When a simpleton local (David Warner) is accused of abducting a girl from the village and ends being protected by Hoffman in his house, the band of locals descend on them and terrorise them. Hoffman realises he needs to fight back in order to protect his wife and Warner.
A lot has been said about this movie, the inbred locals, the brutal rape where the victim might have enjoyed part of it, the level of violence.
It now looks rather dated, it is a slow burn film, you know where it is going and there is the explosion of violence in the last act with Peckinpah even adding some black humour as two of the thugs chasing each other in kids bicycles.
The plot is actually thin and the film felt plodding to me. Hoffman's character seemed to want to integrate with the thuggish locals, maybe to prove he can mix it with the Alpha males, although you have to question how did he end up marrying someone flighty like George who even when the house is under attack wants to runaway from Hoffman who rightly suspects that she will be killed.
The film has a curiosity value but I felt that it would not had been highly regarded but for its reputation and banned from a video release for so long by the British censor.
David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) is an American astro-mathematician city
boy. He moves to his wife Amy's home village in Cornwall, southwestern
England. He doesn't fit in the rural life. Her ex-boyfriend Charlie
Venner is still interested. Charlie's friends are hired to repair the
buildings. Their constant meddling start causing problems within the
There's nobody to really root for in this movie. David and Amy start out as a happily married couple but for some unknown reasons, they start fighting. Out of the blue, she's flashing her boobs for the workers and he's coldly distant. Neither of them are that appealing. The connection drawn by Sam Peckinpah between violence and manhood could have been an interesting idea but this couple is really problematic. This movie is infamous for its violence and its rape scene. Amy's wandering eye really complicates matters, even the rape scene.
I never saw a film so simple and yet so complex at the same time. This is how sophisticated Sam Peckinpah was as director of Straw Dogs. He must have had a god-like understanding of human beings and their vulnerabilities, or Straw Dogs would have turned out a forgettable made-for-TV movie. On the contrary, the film is increasingly relevant to mankind as time goes by, surpassing even a classic branding. The story plot and the script are exceptionally well-done, as it rids the viewers of any disbelief from early on. You stop asking why they move there, why Amy Sumner chooses to conduct herself that way, why there is tension between her and the husband. Why the rape is emotionally mixed between yearning and disgust on her part, and all the rest. You subscribe to the film from the beginning, and helplessly follow them every step of the way until every bit of emotion is brutally unfolded and till tail lights of that white car disappears into the darkness. If you show this 1971 film around the US today, it would be easily alleged of campaigning for the National Rifles Association to support the rights to bear arms. It is scary to discover that violence does not have to start from your own inclination or their provocation. Violence can be a result of mutual contempt without you being conscious of helping to develop one. In this film, violence is much a combination of David, Amy, Charlie, Chris, Norman, Henry, Tom, Reverend Barney Hood, to even the lawman Major John Scott, who represents a mindset of "the law is dead". Sam Peckinpah, as this film was first released, was condemned almost unanimously by critics and viewers alike. He was accused of glorifying violence, in support of a lawless society, and in favor of Doomsday's analogies. Today we see him as a prophet who was and is wise. His analysis of social problems is second to none. You can even restructure all governments' crime-preventing policy based upon his films, particularly on this one. Someone made the right call not to try any sequels of this film. The reason is obvious: we now become the real-life sequel of David Sumner's driving Henry Niles into the dark on that fateful night.
After courting controversy with the bloody western The Wild Bunch in
1969, filmmaker Sam Peckinpah would push the envelope of on screen
violence even further with his 1971 follow up film Straw Dogs. The
story of a timid mathematician who turns into a blood thirsty killer
after a group of hoodlums rape his wife and attack his home, the film
remains a visceral and disturbing watch some 45 years after its
Straw Dogs follows mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and his attractive young wife Amy (Susan George) as they settle in Amy's quiet childhood village in Cornwall so that David can devote time to his work. Markedly different within the town's milieu, the Sumner's presence causes dissension among the townspeople with a gang of local hoodlums beginning to bully Sumner and lust after his wife.The situation escalates when one of the lead hoodlums rapes Amy, setting the stage for the film's second half where David finally sets aside his "nice guy" facade in order to savagely reassert his masculine pride.
Violent and unrelenting, Straw Dogs is a meditation on man's base savagery from one of cinema's most terminally politically incorrect auteurs. Whether one finds themselves loving or hating Peckinpah's polarizing vision, however, Straw Dogs is certainly not a film to leave you indifferent, a testament to its enduring power so many years after its initial release.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Extremely powerful piece of work, though I can not say it was enjoyable
but excruciating. For me the female lead created a lot of woe in this
film. She is brilliantly naive and annoying and causes so much conflict
for the plot to chew upon. The actress performs awesomely, as does
every other actor in this. !0/10 for script, casting, character
development and direction. Brilliant film making team work but not a
pleasant film. Very memorable though.
In film school I did an essay on an aspect of films regarding how often female characters are used as plot obstacles for the males to overcome in order to advance the story. Here this is happening, yet it goes further in that her suffering becomes a big part of the story along side her carrying out so many ultimately destructive actions. There are also many male characters that perform many destructive actions here.
I recommend this if you appreciate solid character development.
|Page 7 of 26:||               |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|