quad_jpeg_straightheads.jpgNearly all the reviews of Straightheads have been dismissive of this British revenge flick (example from Time Out here). Generally it got one star, half a paragraph and a snide remark that Gillian Anderson was slumming it. And perhaps in the upmarket papers there would also be a prurient mention of the anal rape by shotgun sequence, whilst rolling its eyes in print. The only review that had anything good to say about it was in Sight & Sound, and initially I thought that might be due to a British film connection: there might be an article involved.

Well Sight & Sound was right. Straightheads, incomprehensible title and strangely efficient intro aside, is a terrific little film. Successful career woman picks up wide boy Danny Dyer, they go to a posh party in the countryside and are attacked on the way home. Devastated they deal or don’t with this situation in different ways. The potential implausibility of their initial relationship becomes a study in anger, grief and, of course, revenge. And yet the film is clearly much more interested in the psychology of its leads, than the actual mechanics of revenge. The journey into violence changes both them, and their victims – none of whom are allowed to remain as faceless bad guys. Victims beget victims, cleverly worked bits about the cycle of violence lie implicit in this film. And both Anderson and Dyer play tricky characters. Her career woman remains feminine despite taking what would otherwise be the male lead in this film. Dyer is emasculated by the attack, but was in many way emasculated before – and the source of his eventual strength is very dodgy indeed. The imploring look into camera at the end of the film suggests that there might be slightly more to Dyer as an actor than just the stoned wide boy niche he has marked out for himself in Nick Love films.

Straightheads is a nasty little film, no mistake, about nasty people and what nasty people do. But it is also about vigilante justice, and brave enough to suggest that it is not what the movies say it is. It is about sexual politics and it is about life dealing you a bad hand. And for all of its occasional problems, the narrative holds up and it is a low budget film with lowish expectations which succeeds where no end of revenge fantasy films fail: it shows revenge as just that, a fantasy. No mistake by Gillian Anderson here I think.