Thursday, January 11, 2007

STRAIGHTHEADS is an embarassment

STRAIGHTHEADS is a film that attempts to sit in the rape-revenge-thriller genre. It's a genre that features some of the most emotionally powerful, socially provocative and technically pioneering movies in cinema history. From STRAW DOGS to THELMA AND LOUISE to IRREVERSIBLE, movies in this genre have confronted the audience with brutal imagery, shaking us out of our comfortable lives. The implication of these films is that violence is random and that, in the final analysis, we can only turn to ourselves for justice. Most frightening: we are all capable of violence if forced to it. Given all this, a rape-revenge thriller should be a harrowing, depressing experience.

STRAIGHTHEADS, however, is a joke. Literally. You laugh when you should be outraged. It almost plays like a parody, and with Danny Dyer of SEVERANCE fame in the Dustin Hoffman/Vincent Cassel role, I found myself wondering whether it was MEANT to be funny. But a cursory perusal of the production notes suggests that, no, we the audience are meant to see this as some profound psychological drama. In fairness, Gillian Anderson does play it straight and is fairly convincing until she does a rather absurd thing with a shotgun.

So, who do we blame for this fiasco? First and foremost, the writer-director Dan Reed. His script is under-written and psychologically implausible. Would Anderson's character really do what she does in the final sequence given everything that has gone before? Wouldn't Heffer have simply driven off with Sophia rather than tell her to run off and then run back in? Why did Anderson's character have an austere change of clothes when she and Dyer's character were driving back to London? This raises an interesting point about the film's truncated run-time. I suspect that the film has been under the knife and that the character arcs have suffered as a result. At least, that would be one excuse.

Also, as a side criticism I wonder at the casting of Anderson and Dyer. Like I said, Anderson is great at playing trauma, but she is far less convincing as the sexually confident career woman who picks Dyer up. Playing these sorts of roles takes the devil may care confidence of a Sharon Stone or Monica Bellucci. Anderson falls short of the mark, and the sex-scenes with Dyer are embarassingly unerotic. There's simply no chemistry. And as for Dyer, perhaps the lad is just too funny for his own good. I am yet to be convinced of his ability to play serious drama.

So, a pretty crap movie, unless you watch it for laughs, which would be in pretty bad taste. Still, many thanks to Darkmatt for the invite!

STRAIGHTHEADS goes on release in the UK on April 27th.


  1. Gillian Anderson has established herself in film with Bleak House and a small stint in The Last King of Scotland now getting applauded in the US and where Whitaker will probably take home the Oscar. Very noticeable pool of good acting and the type of company that makes one a career. This genra, poorly done, could be career ending and is a bad choice for Anderson. She's a remarkable talent and for her sake, let's hope the film doesn't go past a few theaters over on the other side of the pond. This film appears to be more Dan's fantasy than his epic and most people just don't get it.

  2. I quite agree. I never saw a single episode of the X Files. The first time I saw Anderson was in the BBC's Bleak House and I thought she was incredibly impressive. She stood out even in an altogether superb cast. She's also good in The Last King although her storyline seems a litte redundant and short-changed. I just hope she starts getting offered and acceptingh high quaility dramatic parts because she can clearly do great work when in a quality production. That's just another reason why I was so annoyed by STRAIGHTHEADS.

  3. End her career? No way. Every negative review of this film still praises her acting.

  4. Hi Raffy, I also hope not. Anderson is a tremendous actress. I recently rewatched her performance in House of Mirth - tremendous.