Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Straightheads - Review by Robert Duffin

Director: Dan Reed
Screenwriter: Dan Reed
Runtime: 80 min
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 27 April

The book of Deuteronomy states that ‘life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot’ but first time writer/director Dan Reed isn’t so sure. Reed’s debut film Straightheads emerges from the lineage of rape-revenge films like Straw Dogs and Irreversible, but unlike those films, it is neither socially provocative or emotionally harrowing. The lasting effects of a violent act is not a subject to take lightly, and while Reed attempts to produce a psychologically profound piece of cinema, Straightheads is a hollow attempt to examine a damaged psyche.

The recently Anglocised Gillian Anderson plays Alice Comfort, an ice cool London businesswoman ,who implausibly kicks off an affair with security camera installer, Adam (Danny Dyer). Whether she wants to feel safer or just enjoys a good Sharon Stone erotic thriller is unclear, but a quick nipple flash to the voyeur Adam and they are off to a country house party. On the way home things take a turn for the worse and the pair are set upon by some vicious farmers who blind Adam in one eye and rape Alice.

The script is paint by numbers and you can feel the causal links being drawn straight from a screenwriting manual. Alice’s father dies, an excuse to get her back into the countryside, where a month after an innefectual police investigation she discovers the identity of one of the attackers. Alice suddenly turns rifle sporting commando while Adam sits at home masturbating to his own reflection. Anderson is a talented actress with the ability to convey the internal conflict of a woman who wants revenge and struggles to maintain her humanity, yet it is wasted in this badly written role. Dyer, seemingly attached to every vigilante violence movie going, is laughably bad in scenes where he is required to emote.

In a naive femenist twist to the Straw Dogs model, the violence strips Adam of his masculinity and leaves him with erectile dysfunction and the beginnings of a bizarre sexual fetish. Yet these potentially interesting effects are sidelined for the blackly farcical finale in which Alice takes her “eye for an eye” revenge on the rapist with her rifle substituing as a phallus. The uneven tone, and frankly dispicable eleventh hour Kobayashi moment which tries to dubiously justify the rape, leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Straightheads had potential but it is an ultimately grubby film which says nothing that hasn’t been said better, and with more intelligence, before.

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