Friday, November 2, 2007

No. 17 - Straw Dogs

Sam Peckinpah's most intense film, and that's saying quite a lot. Dustin Hoffman is at his best as David Sumner, a timid American mathematician who moves to a small, quaint English village in order to escape the violent, chaotic culture in the U.S. Of course, mayhem eventually ensues, partly because of Sumner's tone-deafness to social mores in a tight-knit community. His English wife (Susan George) arouses the unwanted attention of some village roughs, which results in one of the most disturbing rape sequences ever filmed.

Peckinpah allows Straw Dogs to unfold slowly, and he tightens the screws on the audience until the tension becomes almost unbearable. The final siege of Sumner's house is one of the greatest action set-pieces ever filmed. Hoffman brilliantly charts Sumner's transformation into a violent man capable of tapping into primal survival skills he didn't realize he even had.

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