Like a playah who refuses to strap up, 1971’s Straw Dogs has fathered dozens of bastard movies over the past 35 years. The basic theme of Sam Peckinpah’s powerful yet somewhat unpleasant thriller—with Dustin Hoffman as a nerdy mathematician who is forced to defend his home from a gang of grimy British thugs—has been repeatedly explored in movies like Panic Room, The Backwoods, The Strangers, and even Fear, that timeless Marky Mark cautionary tale from 1996. Don’t fuck with a man’s castle, as they say. Not even vast oceans or parliamentary procedure can stifle the range and breadth of Peckinpah’s influence, as evidenced by the recent Australian suspense flick, No Through Road.
Richard is bearded and uncharismatic, the kind of wussy loner who smells like cigarette smoke and dried semen. One night he discovers a girl cowering in his closet. Samantha is scared shitless and sporting a nasty head wound. She tells a concerned Richard that she broke into his home to find sanctuary after fleeing from a gang of vicious rapists.
Sure enough, a trio of thugs come a-knocking on Richard’s door, politely asking him to hand the bitch over. Richard refuses. Nonplussed, the rapists cut Richard’s phone lines and set up camp in his driveway, deciding to wait things out. Lonely as he is, Richard has at least one friend, an ex-cop who shows up at Richard’s house to bully the rapists into leaving the driveway. But of course, the rapists don’t leave. And things get decidedly worse.
As with Straw Dogs, the escalating violence in No Through Road is portrayed as a rite of passage toward Richard ‘s reluctant journey to manhood. Richard’s actions certainly seem stupid, as he risks injury, maybe even death, to protect a girl he doesn’t even know. But if he refuses to protect her, if he simply gives Samantha up to the rapists, then he goes back to being the same boring Richard he’s always been. This is his stand, his one moment, and it defines him.
No Through Road is effective and basic. Maybe too basic. Not offering much in the way of subtext or plot twists, the narrative is a stupid-simple, straight-forward affair. The acting is mediocre, the gore is ambitious but average, but somehow, some way, No Through Road continues to enthrall all the way to the bitter, bitter end.