Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Runtime: 120 Minutes
What makes “Straw Dogs” such an excellent film is the resonating performance of Dustin Hoffman. Here, in his younger self he plays a role of a nerdy mathematician who ends up having to protect his very own household. The film at first seems to have no target and unwinds as a film with unexpected happenings. What appears to be two plot lines come into one eventually and Sam Peckenpah’s direction was nothing short of brilliant. This is one of the highlights of the 70’s because of its content.
Hoffman is a well-respected actor in the business and one of the best. His performance here is phenomenal as we see him at first, as the geeky and boring mathematician. Eventually, he begins to spiral down into unnerving wildness in his attempt to protect his house. The film will definitely leave you with an impression from the performance of Hoffman along with the rest of the cast.
It is easy to see that nothing really happens in the film, and can be considered boring. I would have to disagree with this criticism as during the first half of the film, despite there being no action, seeing the boring David and his wife is still amusing. The character is such a bore and their quiet life seems so unusually flat. It is n the second half of the film things begin to kick in. The first half is the build up and is what makes the film so unpredictable, you wonder when there is going to be some action. Eventually, hat appears as two plots come together beautifully.
The violence is equally memorable. Peckinpah’s portrayal of violence was controversial at the time, and this is after his wildly violent film “The Wild Bunch”. The violence here is energetically thrilling and we witness David protecting his house, with the great quote “This is my house”. Using his mathematic brain, he outsmarts the attackers using hot oil, wire and many other objects to protect himself and his home.
The way the film explores violence is why the film is so memorable and great. It seems 1971 was a favourable year for ‘banned in the U.K’ films, because alongside “A clockwork Orange”, this one ended up banned. Although not as intense as some of the images seen in clockwork, “Straw Dogs” holds an interesting insight to violence.
In one scene, we have a rather controversial scene indeed. David’s wife is in the house alone whilst David is out shooting birds. An unexpected visitor arrives at the house and grapples David’s wife. It is not long until she is being raped in a disorientating display of despicable behaviour. However, she all but hates the experience. At first, she ties to escape, but she seems to be secretly enjoying it eventually.
The way Peckinpah directed the film was great. As mentioned, the two plots come together. The direction supports these to-be intertwined plotlines. It does it almost without telling the audience. The characters that seem like extras or small parts become part of the plot. The film unfolds nicely despite the slow beginning.
Our cowardly and somewhat dull character David turns out to abhor violence when protecting his house. His character may be boring, but that is the appeal of this character. When we see the final confrontations, Hoffman’s acting craft shows great finesse. The film’s finale is what boosts the enjoyment of this film, as it seems the first two-thirds of the film are just one big build-up of character introduction and suspense. The film begins with equilibrium and soon spirals into chaos as it is disrupted.
I may be alone is saying this is better than Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch, but that is how I feel. Westerns are not my favourite genre and Wild Bunch, while great, still had a monologue tone. “Straw Dogs” challenges the portrayal of violence in cinema, which creates a magnificent experience for the viewer as the film spirals down into a quirky and thrilling situation. It's a great mediation of manhood and a film with great portrayal. The film’s final half hour will likely be remembered.
My Rating: 9/10