Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The storyline in Straightheads is simple. A young couple driving home from a party are brutally assaulted. The woman is raped. Later, when it becomes clear that the police can do nothing, they become obsessed by the idea of revenge. Having identified their assailants, they make arrangements to spy on them and prepare for a violent showdown.

The storyline in Straightheads is one we've all encountered before. Half of those viewing the film will find the couple's obsession riveting. The other half will find it ludicrous. Which half you fall into really depends on your ability to relate to violent emotions of this type and to the cold single-mindedness which can overcome people who have been subject to trauma. Unfortunately, whilst it's realistic enough, demonstrating this kind of distance severely limits what an actor can do and makes it difficult for them to be engaging on other levels.

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This is particularly difficult for Gillian Anderson as corporate executive Alice, since she's been so thoroughly typecast by her television work that many viewers find it hard to take her seriously in other roles. A capable actress, she doesn't really get the chance to show it here, though she does what she can to give us an insight into a woman whose life we only glimpse through a very narrow portal of events. Opposite her, Danny Dyer is more flexible as the younger boyfriend at first bullied into going along with her obsession, only gradually discovering his own. What Alice can justify in herself she finds disturbing to watch in someone else, and it is the developing conflict between these two very different people which provides the real meat of the film.

By its nature, Straightheads is a very violent film, and some will find it more disturbing because the violence it portrays is so ordinary, so close to home. By way of this it illustrates the ease with which brutality can emerge from ordinary situations, seeking (if not quite successfully) to establish a general atmosphere of fear.

It is at its strongest when focusing on the central couple. Minor characters are poorly drawn, especially the villains, two of whom come across as little more than cartoon thugs. The easily revealed ugliness of these men rather lets the couple (and the audience) off the hook on a moral level, and it's disappointing that no effort is made to develop further the ambiguities surrounding the effect of all this adult violence on the daughter of one of them. This girl is all we really see of the wider world and she's not a strong enough actress to carry such a burden.

Some have criticised Straightheads for its abrupt ending, but this seems to make sense enough - it stops when the driving force behind the narrative has run its course. What will happen next is anyone's guess, but it would seem to be something which the central couple haven't considered at all - any more than their original assailants wondered at the possible consequences of their behaviour. There's an honesty about this which suits the genre well. If revenge movies are you thing, you'll probably find that Straightheads works well - you'll certainly find it suitably unsettling.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2007
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A couple, brought together by a chance encounter, react to a horrific attack by plotting vengeance.
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Jeff Robson ***

Director: Dan Reed

Writer: Dan Reed

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Danny Dyer, Ralph Brown, Kate Bunten, Antony Byrne, Anthony Calf, Francesca Fowler, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Adam Rayner, Steven Robertson, Ewan Stewart

Year: 2007

Runtime: 79 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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