Posted on 1/28/11 09:28 AM
Straw Dogs is yet another Western film directed by Peckinpah. Now it may not be a traditional Western but several aspects of the film lead me to believe it could be placed in that category. For starters, the film is set in the West (of Engalnd), there's a gang of outlaws (Charlie Venner, Norman Scutt, Riddaway) and a corrupt 'sheriff' (Major John Scott.) It's interesting to note that the outlaws are to an extent 'cowboy builders' (English slang for builders who provide a bad service for a very good price) who spend the first quarter of the film harassing Amy which in turn leads to dire consequences but I'll come to that later.
However, the similarities to the Western genre end there. The main character David Sumner (brilliantly portrayed by Dustin Hoffman) isn't your typical hero or anti-hero, for the majority of the film he's a pushover, he lets the builders flirt with his wife, he avoids conflict and even when the builders kill his cat, after a heated debate with Amy, he simply dismisses the incident and goes on a hunt with the perpetrators. It is amidst this scene that, probably, the most disturbing moment of the film plays out, that is the rape of Amy by two of the builders. Yet again David does and perhaps maybe even more disturbing about this incident is the fact that Amy does not report such a crime to Major Scott. You can't blame her though, this is the same policeman that let a paedophile free and in the final scene very stupidly confronts the gang of builders unarmed and asks them to put their gun away, don't worry he gets his comeuppance in the end.
As a viewer you begin to become frustrated with the calmness David has, how far can these men push him? This is the main basis for the film, what does it take to make a man snap. It seems that an attempt on breaking and entering does push David to his limit and he finally breaks down and in a very violent manner. The final act has it all, guns, fire, a man trap, rats, boiling whiskey and a triumphant ensemble of bagpipes.
Although some may see this film as glorifying vigilantism I believe it's doing the opposite by showing the brutality that one man can achieve if he is over that edge, Peckinpah even said that the true villain of this film is David, but morality aside this film isn't portraying real life, it's not a film based on fact, there isn't a village like this (not that I know of) in England and it's pure fantasy. Although I'm not going to argue with the fact it was banned, you can clearly see why it was banned at the time, I will say that personally I believe that if it hadn't gained notoriety for it's controversy it wouldn't be held in such high regard as it is today.