Dustin Hoffman plays the hero, David Sumner, and at first he seems to be continuing in the string of nebbishy neurotic roles he took previously in The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy. A mild-mannered American college professor, he's arrived in western England with his wife Amy (a brave and brilliant Susan George) so he can have peace and quiet to work on his "astral mathematics." The small town, full of sad stone houses and often cloaked in fog, is where Amy grew up, and she's almost immediately stalked by a passel of alcoholic locals. The film's first five minutes has some virtuosic foreshadowing in it, giving us shots of David and Amy carrying a large and intimidating "mantrap" (basically a man-sized bear trap); tight shots of thuggish locals like Charlie (Del Henney) getting too close to the pair; a shot of Amy's sweatered chest, noticeably bra-less, which will become an important plot point later. Subtly and quickly, Peckinpah announces his three themes: sex, intimidation, and violence. It's gonna be interesting, but it's not gonna be easy to get through.
Continue reading: Straw Dogs Review
It's even got William Holden's second best performance (he was better in Network). He plays Pike Bishop, the head of an outlaw gang of ace criminals. We are introduced to the gang when it is nearly 10 men strong, but after a gunfight with Thornton (Robert Ryan), Pike's old partner turned bounty hunter, there are only six. Relentlessly chased, they quickly take an offer to hold up a train and steal 16 crates of rifles from it. They return to the Mexico town, still being trailed by Thornton. The only Mexican in the gang, Angel (Jaime Sánchez), insists on taking one crate so that the general who hired him won't take over his village. When they return to the general, they give him the crates and he gives them the money, but not before taking Angel and torturing him for trying to arm his village. An argument between Pike and his closest comrade, Dutch (Ernest Borgnine), sparks a return to the general's compound and stand off between the five remaining outlaws and the general's army, which consists of roughly 200 men.
Continue reading: The Wild Bunch Review