Foolishly undeterred by the warnings of other reviews, including a pair on this very site, I figured the violent British thriller Straightheads might still be worth my time. It wasn't. And if I can prevent just one person out there from taking a chance on the film then I'll feel like at least something was accomplished by my viewing. Beyond being reminded why I like to see movies that have some semblance of recommendable quality, my experience with Straightheads wasn't what most would call positive.
For those unfamiliar with the picture, retitled Closure for the straight-to-DVD market in the U.S., it stars Gillian Anderson and Danny Dyer as strangers who have a chance encounter that ultimately, illogically, later leads to them being joint victims of a violent assault and co-conspirators in a revenge plot on their attackers. The broad strokes of the plot aren't a problem, but the few details that do emerge become increasingly ridiculous in terms of coincidence and convenient turns in the narrative. If other aspects of the film had been done well enough, some of these leaps in logic might be worth ignoring. Several of the older B noirs and crime thrillers, for example, operate almost exclusively on the principal that cinematic chance is like an entity unto itself, separate from the acknowledged reality in the outside world. That can be accepted, in part, because an atmosphere built around waking nightmares and hallucinations has been established to the viewer through either preconceived notions or skillful filmmaking.
Not here, though. The plot points dependent on ludicrous moments of everything lining up exactly as needed make up the entire film, one unlikely turn after the next. From Anderson's whim to take Dyer, a guy installing wireless cameras in her home, to a party at her boss's house and on through the spontaneous outdoor sex, the foreboding vehicle going slowly at night, the deer that's hit then not hit, the death of Anderson's father and location of his house, the encounter with the man on the horse, and so on and so on, the events are hardly believable separate from each other. In the aggregate, they're audaciously cursed on someone either with terrible luck or a scripted role in a bum movie.
A few generous comparisons to Straw Dogs seem inevitable but don't expect it to be that laden with ideas. Director and writer Dan Reed flubs Straightheads so badly that it's more or less impossible to go looking for anything worthwhile beneath the surface because the top layer has been so poorly put together. It's a mercifully short feature, and neither of the main characters have dimension beyond simply being victims and then craving their idea of retribution. This could potentially explore the motivations for revenge or ask how victims of violent crimes are supposed to regain their identity. I didn't get that at all from this movie. Reed instead offers up a scene with Danny Dyer struggling to masturbate.
More overtly disgusting violence can be found elsewhere in the film. I struggle to fully understand why there's a need to show semi-graphic rape scenes on film. The Irreversible-type instances of seemingly having a point and making sure that it's illuminated through forcing the viewer into watching this violence in all its ugliness is, if not completely justifiable, at least derived from an artistic bravery that encourages debate. However, simply showing several seconds of a woman being brutally raped comes across to me as a reprehensible display of cowardice. It's asking the viewer to witness this event without experiencing anything close to its full impact. It's not that I want to share in that trauma. Just the opposite, actually, as I would be content to never see another one of these types of scenes again. But you can't go halfway. The non-graphic suggestion of a rape scene gets the point across just as well as what's done in Straightheads, without trying to give the impression that a shocking and extended act of torturous violence can be absorbed through a few extra seconds of uncomfortable viewing. If a director is unable or unwilling to show the full and immediate horror of sexual assault, it shouldn't be glimpsed at all and it certainly shouldn't be used for shock value.
Going by the check disc sent over for review, this release appears to be region-free.
Picture quality is fairly good, especially considering that the film was apparently shot in Super 16 and later converted to a digital intermediate. Lots of grain does persist but it's handled quite well and the transfer itself exhibits no real problems. Things can get dark visually so be prepared that it's not going to look like a movie shot either on 35mm or even digitally. The aspect ratio here is 1.85:1 and the disc is single-layered.
Curiously, audio is limited to a lossless PCM 2.0 track. It's an acceptable listen, though I wonder why the R1 DVD has a 5.1 surround mix instead. No subtitles have been provided, a big no-no in my book.
Extra features are somewhat robust considering what we have on our hands here. Leading things off are "Cast & Crew Interviews" (21:37) which are immediately identified as an EPK and are presented in 4:3. Director Dan Reed discusses his film, as do stars Gillian Anderson and Danny Dyer. The Theatrical Trailer (1:28) is quite short. Deleted Scenes (29:05), offered with optional commentary, tend to drone on and seem unnecessarily repetitive. They have time stamps and are letterboxed 4:3. The "Behind the Scenes" featurette (7:16), identified as a selected b-roll, doesn't contain much to recommend. Finally, the commentary with Reed, Anderson and Dyer seems to find the principals enjoying the picture far more than the viewer probably will. Even so, it's hardly worth sitting through the feature again.