Straw Dogs (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) is a simple man, he’s a young mathematician in America who is tired of the endless violence. He seeks to take up a quieter, more serene lifestyle, so he moves to the English countryside. This isn’t much of a reach for Sumner, as his wife Amy (Susan George) is English and she welcomes the return. But what should have a peaceful existence turns sour, due to fights between the couple and to a greater degree, the bullish workers brought in to remodel their home. As David is mild-mannered and reserved, he winds up being pushed around, made fun of, and humiliated, all to his intense dismay. But he is not prone to violence and instead, he tries to overlook the frequent abuse. At the same time, problems with his wife escalate, as arguments continue and affection is all but gone from the relationship. So when Amy allows herself to be seen topless by the workers, it isn’t that she wants them to see her, but she needs that attention, since David isn’t willing to fulfill her needs. Soon, David is taken off on a false hunting trip and while he’s gone, the workers storm his home and rape his young wife. Unable to continue to stand idle, David takes a stand when the workers attack his house, caused by his protection of a mentally ill man. The conflict ensures that only one side will survive, but can David overcome his violent attackers, or will he fall victim to their brutal assault?

A movie notorious for its brutal nature, Straw Dogs is often mentioned in the same breath as Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, and Deliverance. While Straw Dogs stands out as a superior motion picture when compared to those others, all four share a common theme and a harsh, violent tone. The idea of refined, sophisticated urbanites clashing with more primitive, uncultured rural folks is not a new one, but in Straw Dogs, the concept is pushed to its limits, as violence and brutality take priority over moral values. You’ll see murders, child killings, rapes, beatings, animal abuse, and more, all presented in unflinching fashion, especially in this uncut version, as nothing has been excised here. In addition to the violence, cruelty to animals, and harsh overall tone, this one is sure to offend some for its placement of women in the order of the world. But given the structure and nature of Straw Dogs, that seems to be right at home and let’s be honest, its hard to look at Straw Dogs as some kind of cinematic role model. The story is excellent, the direction is masterful, and the performances are superb, as Straw Dogs is a top notch thriller that explores marriage, masculinity, and the nature of violence. I cannot recommend this picture enough, especially in this deluxe two disc edition, complete with the uncut version of the movie. So without hesitation, Straw Dogs is given this reviewer’s highest recommendation.

Although we’re used to seeing Dustin Hoffman in likable, memorable roles, he isn’t even close to that typical standard here. In this material, Hoffman isn’t likable or even sympathetic, even in his darkest moments of despair, its hard to be totally on his side. Yes, he is involved in some horrific events and it isn’t his fault, but even so, his character is by no means a good one. Instead, he is the most likable of a band of horrible men, so it isn’t so much Hoffman’s character’s goodness, but the degree of evil around him. So you might think Hoffman has trouble without his usual methods available, but he proves here once more that he is one of the finest screen actors of his generation. I am always taken with his work in Straw Dogs, as he is able to bring out the subtle touches, both good and bad ones. His interactions are excellent also and in my opinion, this is one of his best efforts. Other films with Hoffman include The Graduate, Marathon Man, Midnight Cowboy, Little Big Man, and Kramer vs. Kramer.

Video: How does it look?

Straw Dogs is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The film has a worn, gritty texture that is inherent to the source, partly creative decision and partly film stock related. In other words, the film doesn’t look razor sharp and I doubt it ever will, as it would throw off the visual design. But this treatment offers a nice improvement in overall quality, as detail is a shade sharper and the visuals just look more refined on the whole. So it might not pop off the screen, but Straw Dogs has never looked this good on home video.

Audio: How does it sound?

The film doesn’t benefit much from this DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack, but it still sounds quite good. The mix doesn’t force surround presence, so the film retains a reserved, natural sound. A few scenes that amp up the tension provide a minor spike in surround use, but again this comes off as natural. The bulk of the audio is dialogue and since vocals are clear at all times, fans can breathe easily in that regard. I was a little worried that this remix might tinker with the overall sound design, but it proves to be a faithful, effective presentation. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes some television spots, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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