(The film is called Closure in the United States)

by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

"Straightheads" is British gangster slang for "those who live outside the criminal life." Gillian Anderson and Danny Dyer play a couple of straightheads who are pushed across the line into crooked territory. Dyer portrays a working-class guy who makes his living installing security systems, and the installation in well-to-do Gillian's house comes with a bonus - Gillian herself. When he tests the closed circuit television, he's surprised to see her undressing, although certainly aware that he must be watching.

They somehow manage to form an unlikely couple, and Gillian takes her new prol boyfriend to a posh weekend in the Shropshire countryside. That proves to be a mistake on many levels. First, all of her stuffy friends condescend to him. Second, as the couple escapes the stifling atmosphere of the aristocrats, they find that the local prols are far worse company. Gillian and Danny are beset by some violent rural yokels who rape her and beat him so hard that he loses the use of one eye, as well as the ability to do his manly duties. The victims soon come to realize that they will never receive any form of justice through the legal process, but a fortuitous circumstance gives them a way to track down the identity of the yobs who hurt them, so they resolve to extract their own "justice" ... read "revenge." Between Danny's technical wizardry and Gillian's skill with a firearm, they eventually manage to take violent retribution.

The film became notorious in the UK for its use of extremely  violent situations to manipulate and involve its viewers, but in terms of character development and audience identification, the violence can be justified contextually. Gillian was cold and unsympathetic when she was a straighthead, and she easily takes to her new role as a violent huntress. Since she goes so far as to use the barrel of the rifle for ... um ... more than just sharpshooting, it would be virtually impossible to identify with her, even though she feels guilt for having done what she did, unless we gain some sympathy by witnessing the brutal details of her earlier abuse at the hands of her victims. In essence, the film comes from the same school of emotion-driven feminist revenge as the notorious B-picture I Spit on Your Grave, mixed with a healthy dose of Peckinpaugh's Straw Dogs, as updated for the new millennium.

Straightheads is not an exploitation movie. It is a film with exploitation elements, including sex, nudity and some extreme violence, but it's more than an exploitation film. It shows us something about the nature of violence, our capacity for it, and our reaction to it. It demonstrates how easily we can turn to violence when provoked, and it shows how we can actually sympathize with others when they do - at least up to a point. Where the film differs from the usual Charles Bronson film is that we don't really keep cheering the execution of the revenge. Oh, we may be rooting for Gillian and Danny at the outset of the hunt, but when we see their extreme measures in detail, our cheers die out and we are left with the realization that violence and revenge can be too ugly even when exerted upon those who truly deserve comeuppance. In that sense, the documentary-style intensity is entirely necessary to leave us feeling our own guilt at having wanted to see an awful revenge in the first place. We're supposed to get that feeling of, "I didn't realize it would be like this. This isn't what I wanted. Enough already." 

The film's level of explicitness is appropriate in context. There is a time (Gillian's rape) when the point has been made and the director cuts away, and there is another time (an eye being gouged out) when the bloody action is actually off-camera. Gillian's rape scene shows no flesh at all, and even the counter-rape with the rifle was done mostly with suggestion, keeping the nudity and penetration again off-camera.  In fact, I don't think the violence could have been toned down much more without losing the effectiveness of the scenes. If the revenge were to be sanitized to typical Hollywood levels, or glamorized to the comic book level of A History of Violence, or if the tone of the film were jokey like a Guy Richie gangster film, it would not be possible for Straightheads to deliver the same impact. The emotional power of the film resides in the fact that we seem to be watching real violence, not film violence.

In summary, I believe that the film's critics seem to have overreacted to the violence. If the director had wanted to show more explicit gore, it would have been a simple matter to do so. He did not. In essence, the critics were not objecting so much to the director's handling of situations as they were to the nature of the situations themselves. Well, life ain't always pretty, lads. Ugly shit happens. And I don't remember any rule book which says the ugly matters are off-limits to filmmakers. As I see it, one must acknowledge this film's effectiveness at portraying the ugliness accurately, and involving the audience in it. That is, after all, one of the most basic things a director is supposed to accomplish. Unfortunately, it's one of those films where you wish it was not as effective as it is. If you have seen I Spit on Your Grave, you can probably remember how you got emotionally involved in one way or another, despite the amateurish acting and production values. Imagine how much more effective that film could have been if the star had been Agent Scully and it had been made by an experienced documentary director who was willing to raise the film's brutality to a level bordering on grisly dark comedy. Well, there you have imagined Straightheads, a revenge drama in which the long-awaited revenge seems excessive when we finally get to it. Even one of the protagonists (Gillian) sees that matters have gone too far, but the other (Danny) gets a taste for revenge, and when he does we are shocked by the realization that violence is so similar to sex in one fundamental way - it comes much easier to people after their cherries are broken. That realization is followed by the uncomfortable feeling that just about any of us could cross the line from straight- to crookedhead.

At 80 minutes including credits, Straightheads is a lot like Hobbes's view of the life of man: nasty, brutish and short. Can I justify the film's ugliness? Yes, I am convinced of it. Do I want to watch the film again? No. Absolutely not. I didn't enjoy it the first time through. But then again, I wasn't supposed to.


The details of the Region 1 features are not available at press time.






2 BBC (of 5 stars)
45 UK summary (Allocine) (of 100)
31 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)




6.3 IMDB summary (of 10)




Straight to DVD in the USA. It appeared in a few theaters in the UK in April/May of 2007, grossing about $400,000. See the bottom of this chart.





  • Gillian Anderson: breasts in two scenes, and the top of her thonged butt.
  • Danny Dyer: bum.
  • One of the rapists: brief bum







Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is an effective movie, but I wish it were not. It's unpleasant to watch, and there are no characters with whom to identify.