A film about masculinity; those who lack it and those who don't know how to control it. The central scene with Hoffman flailing his weapon around in an empty field while his wife gets raped at home is satire of the darkest variety. Everything from that point on is pretty hard to watch - nihilistic and nightmarish, but grimly compelling at the same time.
While opinions vary wildly about this film, I rarely see anyone mention how interminably boring it is. And I'm not just talking about the languid pace in the first half, I mean the unenthusiastic performances, lame characterization, and the fact that every theme it takes aim at has been addressed more competently by handfuls of films before it. Just a thoroughly mediocre movie; I can't even fathom why it would merit strong opinions in either direction, much less any serious criticism.
Tense enough at times to give you chills, in fear and anticipation of the explosive violence that is at all times bubbling beneath the surface. I can understand (and even, to a point, agree) with criticism of the infamous rape scene, but that aside, this is an incisive and complex portrayal of violence and masculinity, unflinching in its moral ambiguity and brutality. Age has, I think, slightly weathered its ability to shock, but the movie's foundations and thematic complexity are rock-solid.
Thirty-eight years later, this film still is suspenseful and still has the power to disturb. Its basic themes (responsibility, heroism, retribution, gender roles) are as relevant now as when the film was made. However, styles of acting change: Hoffman's embattled academic stands the test of time; Susan George was more appealing as an actress and as a character on first viewing. I am surprised that *Straw Dogs* has not been re-made.
One of those films I'm not sure if I've seen before (to paraphrase Tilda Swinton in Limits of Control, there are some movies you're never sure if you've seen or if you've just dreamed them). Straw Dogs is a really uncomfortable movie, and I'm not sure exactly what to make of it; basically, everyone here is a complete asshole and while it's a fascinating drama that escalates to murder fairly believably, I'm honestly not sure how to read it. Which probably means it's good.
The first half is a slow boil of psychological warfare and masculine tension, until finally the film explodes in an overload of testosterone. An interesting meditation on man as ignoble savage, as well as gender roles in society. Its only significant fault is a morally dubious rape scene.