Movies We Like
If you like your ultra-violence with a pulse, you must see Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs—the tale of David and Amy Sumner, played with fervor by Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. Unlike Hoffman’s more well-known portrayals of a man with wisdom and/or humor, his performance in the film produces a chill and admiration that could rival with any cold-blooded killer onscreen. He plays a mathematician who, with his wife, decides to take up residency in her native village of rural England. A place that seems peaceful, yet is nothing but—occupied with Cornish thugs, rat-breeders, tyrants and more than one sexual deviant.
While trying to find relaxation and work on their marriage and his profession, the two find themselves in a vicious and animalistic race to restore peace, David’s masculinity, and to survive. After days of passive-aggressive plots, spiteful conversation, and violence against women, a local girl goes missing. The man suspected of her demise, Henry Niles (David Warner), the town metal-handicap, winds up in the Sumner’s custody one evening. While protecting him in his home, a war unfolds between Sumner and the village thugs, unleashing a competition of wit vs. experience that sends more than one man to their graves.
Using key tools to portray the violence are what set Straw Dogs apart from other ultra-violent films and are examples (many derived from Akira Kurosawa) that films of the genre still implore us to witness today. Telephoto lenses, multi-camera filming, slow-motion violence, and montage are all used superbly in order to shake the audience to the verge of either disgust or glorious praise.
With Straw Dogs, Peckinpah wanted to explore the violence in human affairs and emotions to try and tap into its psychological, emotional, sexual, and physical components. He wanted, not only for us to see its inevitability, but to root for the violent protagonist simply because we can relate to his principles. Highly Recommended!
Straw Dogs was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score.