Friday, January 30, 2009

The Backwoods

Paul (Gary Norman) and Norman (Paddy Considine) go on vacation with their wives/girlfriends in rural Spain, where Paul owns a rustic home. Apparently, the locals are none too fond of the English visitors, even though Paul speaks excellent Spanish and had family from the area. Norman apparently works for Paul, and has issues with that. Paul is brash and capable, whereas Norman is a quiet screw-up.

While out in the woods hunting, Paul and Norman come across a cabin. For no real reason, they break in and find a deformed girl behind a locked door. They take her with them, intending to turn her over to the authorities. Her relatives come looking for her, and the backwoods bloodshed starts.

This is a movie that has drawn many comparisons to Straw Dogs, but I don’t think they are very accurate. Straw Dogs is about a pacifist city dweller who has to become tougher to deal with rough country folk. Here, Oldman’s character is arguably more ruthless and capable than his enemies. Also, where there was real conflict in Straw Dogs, here it is all based on a misunderstanding. The leader of the locals seems to be doing his best to see no one gets hurt, even after some of his brothers have been killed. He repeatedly offers the Englishmen an out from the trouble they are in, they are just too dumb to take it.

The character of Norman is just too dumb to take. At one point Paul hatches a plan for Norman to take the girl to town while Paul leads the locals away from the house. Norman doesn’t do this, saying he has to “stay with the women.” At which point he leaves the women alone, apparently just to set up a fatal confrontation.

The viewer quickly loses interest in what happens to the characters, and even the ending is ambiguous. Pass.

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