Straightheads

Movie Review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Danny Dyer, Anthony Calf, Francesca Fowler

Director: Dan Reed

Revenge is neither sweet nor pretty. This is the message at the heart of SRAIGHTHEADS, a revenge thriller from British writer and director Dan Reed. In this film, the act of revenge is cold, dirty and neither redemptive or satisfying. It is at once a very British and a peculiarly continental film.

It is a very simple plot. Gillian Anderson is Alice, an attractive professional living a cold, quiet existence. Whilst having security cameras installed, she starts an affair with the technician, Adam (Danny Dyer.) This is not an affair you feel will last – more one of convenience but she invites him to a smart party hosted by a colleague in a country house near her father’s home. A brutal run-in with local hoods after the party changes both their lives. Revenge becomes the reason they stay together and a chance meeting with one of the attackers gives them the ability to act out that revenge.

Like a Greek tragedy, this film heightens reality whilst also remaining believable – at times far too believable. It manages to appear brutal whilst never directly showing the acts of violence, merely implying them. Dan Reed knows that is more shocking to imagine violence than show it.

In 80 minutes, Reed and his cast manages to tell a compact and thoroughly involving tale that never feels rushed. With such a running time, you might expect to feel short changed on character or plot, but neither is the case here.

I have never been over impressed with Danny Dyer’s chirpy cockney act. His disintegration here though shows true depth and it is his most mature performance by far. His is a journey from a cocky, stoned lad to an almost animalistic creature.

Gillian Anderson is at her most impressive too. She has often played cold and distant, from THE X-FILES to BLEAK HOUSE, and here too, she hides much of her emotion, but it works so well in the context of her role. The story could have easily descended into histrionics, but the detached nature of the characters adds power to the story.

Even in brutal moments, this film has a glassy beauty of dispassionate washed out colours. Its real power though is in its characterisation. Even the supposed villains have depth and almost everyone has a reason, a valid back story either shown or at the least implied. It adds to the power of the film, makes it a more moving experience. The fact that it crams so much into such a short running time is admirable. The ending is understated but leaves a lasting impression, but it also does leave you feeling a bit stunned by its suddenness.

That said I can find little fault in this British gem. It stands far above all the usual guns and violence gangster tales because for once there is style and substance.

5 out of 6 stars

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