Sam Peckinpah’s controversial character study stands the test of time as the story of a man backed into a corner. David meekly seeks the path of least resistance until violence is forced upon him.
Dustin Hoffman and Susan George sell the disillusioned couple in a way that it all too often missing from movies. They have petty squabbles and lash out at each other and then at the end of the day, they curl up together and call a truce. Young, vibrant and – yes – bored, Amy has nothing in common with her husband and little interest in his work or their boring getaway. David is cold and aloof and often oblivious to the world around him – a man who just wants to be left alone with his work. The local toughs, though, have other ideas as their pranks and juvenile name calling take a sinister turn.
The characters are surprisingly complex for what is essentially an early revenge flick. Peckinpah also does a great job of working in secondary story elements that give the film some extra depth. That’s not always flawless, though, as the waters get a little murky at times and the story bogs down early on.
The glaring problem with the story is Amy’s rape. First, it’s ambiguous (at least initially). More importantly, though, it has next to nothing to do with the story. It’s a shocking moment, but has no bearing on David’s turn – he doesn’t even really find out about it. Without spoiling anything, it may have some bearing on the ultimate conclusion to the film, but seemed really forced and irrelevant.
Widely viewed as one of the early revenge film classics, it’s actually hard to call this a revenge flick. This is a character study, plain and simple. As the movie tagline says, “Every man has a breaking point”. The question lying at the end of this story is what happens to this man when he reaches his.