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Straw Dogs - A Remake Of Sam Peckinpah's Classic

Director Rod Lurie's 2011 remake of the original film of the same name.

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Non-Violent Timidity Vs. Brutish Machismo...."You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry....."

  • Sep 18, 2011

Remakes and re-issues seem to be all the rage these days; and as I have stated before, sometimes they can be necessary and they can be a way to update a story for more modern audiences. It is yet to be argued that the original “Straw Dogs” needed a remake, since it is another one of those movies which was a product of its generation. The direction by Sam Peckinpah was brilliantly simple and Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of a passive, non-violent character was so effective that it was able to raise the question whether he was a coward and hypocritical or if he was just trying to keep to his brand of principle. It allowed the viewer to see the lines between cowardice, masculinity and violence, and why one resorts and responds with it.

                       Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner and James Marsden as David Sumner in "Straw Dogs."

                       Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner in "Straw Dogs."

Well, director/writer Rod Lurie’s 2011 update “Straw Dogs” is as good as it can be. It relocates the setting from England to Mississippi and brings forth different yet similar themes to what made the original such a fantasy revenge tale that asked some provocative questions. Altering the original script by Peckinpah and David Zelag, Lurie changes the lead male character (played by James Marsden, X-Men) from mathematician to screenwriter (this change works since the original made many wonder how a mathematician could get a wife like that, and it is supported by a credible back story) as David Sumner arrives in his wife Amy’s (Kate Bosworth) hometown. Her father had just passed on and the couple have decided to fix the damages to the barn while David writes a new script for a movie.

The work for the barn have been contracted by Amy’s ex-boyfriend back in high school, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood) and his band of handymen, David chose them since they appeared to be old friends of Amy‘s. Tensions begin to mount as the group seemed to know what it takes to make the situation more awkward and uncomfortable for the married couple than it already was. David isn’t that well-equipped or prepared to deal with such machismo, but soon, David and Amy find themselves in a very unpleasant dilemma and a violent home invasion…

                     Drew Powell as Bic, Billy Lush as Chris, Rhys Coiro as Norman and Alexander Skarsgard as Charlie in "Straw Dogs."

                    Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner in "Straw Dogs."

                   James Marsden as David Sumner in "Straw Dogs."

There are quite a few puzzles present as we observe the business relationship between the couple and Charlie’s band, this serves some thoughtful reflection on the part of the viewer. In the trailer, we see Amy scantily clad in short shorts while jogging with the soundtrack “Going Down” as a visual stab in an attempt at humor. I mean, the rednecks leering at Amy was unapologetic and crude, but honestly, as David had discussed in the film, it remains an issue to be questioned by the viewer. It seemed to give the viewer room to buy into some elements as it becomes supported by several scenes. It expresses the possibility how some things can be seen differently by different observers, and how some folks should be mindful as to the manner they present themselves. I suppose, one needs to be more aware of their surroundings, and as David goes, “When in Rome…” and to not tempt the eye of temptation. There is also another thing that diverts from the original, and it makes one wonder whether the rape was known by David or not this time around. I cannot discuss this without spoiling the movie, so let us just say that the rape (as in the original) is one of the film’s gratuitous plot points, despite having a small hint of nudity.

Kate Bosworth seemed to be on a roll in this more mature role. Her portrayal of Amy is one filled with sexy and firm female strength. Amy is the kind of person who sees herself as independent and knows the limits of what she does. The rape scene in the original was one of that film’s notorious sequences and Lurie does his best to kind of give more depth to that scene. Lurie still leaves enough of that mixed signal, “no means yes” kind of thing, and it does make one wonder if it was indeed rape or consenting sex she had with Charlie, but it left me feeling disgusted and repulsed as the scene went further in a different way. Lurie did a good job in mixing up some emotions as he keys in the visceral impact of the rape on its narrative. The aftermath of the rape is one to be remembered as Bosworth expressed the confusing emotions of fear, confusion, and above all guilt over something that may have or not been her fault.

                    Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner in "Straw Dogs."

                    Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner, James Marsden as David Sumner and Alexander Skarsgard as Charlie in "Straw Dogs."

David as played by Marsden is a man who seemed to be trying to fit in, though deep inside, he really does not care for this way of life in the South. He is compelled to try to relate, but his beliefs and sometimes, even his subtlety in his self-superiority are mis-read by others; this I believe, Lurie wanted for us to feel to give some credibility to his tormentors. Marsden does do a decent job as a man almost at the end of his rope, and tries to stand up to the bullies who are in front of him. Skarsgard is usual cool self, and is surprisingly very convincing as the antagonist in the film. The subplot with James Woods’ “coach” character and the man with mental disability, Jeremy (Dominic Purcell) did feel a little out of place at times, but it did help define the David character in the resolution of the final act. I did however, want to point out that Amy’s sudden questions about David’s masculinity and supposed 'cowardice' felt out of place, and it felt very unclear. It felt that it came from left field, and it was never defined and established in the narrative properly.

“Straw Dogs” is a violent film, but it did try to not wallow in its violence. Though I have to admit it would be easy to see it as something rendered to merely titillate its viewer. I mean, the part that made the original thought-provoking and compelling as a revenge fantasy was missed at first glance, but in return, Lurie did do a screenplay to not merely question the male character, but also to ask questions about the married couple themselves. The stand off in the final act did fail in many ways, but it did succeed in some ways. It was a kind of ‘stacked up’ deck against David, and while it was easy to root for him, it wasn’t as intense as it should’ve been, but I don’t think Lurie intended for his remake to exceed the original in this manner.

                        Rhys Coiro as Norman, James Marsden as David Sumner and Alexander Skarsgard as Charlie in "Straw Dogs."

                       James Marsden as David Sumner, Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner and Alexander Skarsgard as Charlie in "Straw Dogs."

“Straw Dogs” is as good as it could be for a remake, since the original wasn't that complex to begin with. Nope, it wasn’t a great movie and it does fail to expand on the original’s premise, and rather it simply redefined questions about the motivations behind each scene and perhaps add a different twist to it all. A lot of people will not buy into the whole Amy-David thing, but think about it this way; a woman does keep secrets at times, it just tried to instigate some irony that sometimes, things happen the way we never expected with the same result or did they? I’d like to know what viewers thought about the scene before Charlie said “Son of a bitch did have some man in him after all….” I know it seemed an obvious reaction, but I still wonder about that playing record…

Now is this remake unnecessary? Yes. Is this remake a bad movie? No.

Timid Recommendation. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Straw Dogs." James Marsden as David Sumner and Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner in "Straw Dogs." Poster art for "Straw Dogs."Poster art for "Straw Dogs."

Non-Violent Timidity Vs. Brutish Machismo....

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September 19, 2011
I love the original film and there is no way I'm going to see a remake of a Peckinpah film. It just isn't going to happen. LOL!
September 19, 2011
Well, the original was a product of its generation. This was good as a remake, but I tend to have doubts whether it was necessary.
September 19, 2011
If they were necessary then we wouldn't call them remakes, we'd call them originals. LMAO!
September 19, 2011
There are necessary remakes..."I Spit on Your Grave", the re-adaptation of the book "True Grit" by the Coens, "The Thing" and Cronenberg's "The Fly" (I mean the original was so stupid)...
September 19, 2011
I would say that a remake can be good, but necessary hardly seems the right word. "Necessary" deems not only relevance, but also necessity, which can't really be universally applied to either remakes or films in general since they are an art form and most people will forever debate the social importance of certain art forms as opposed to others. And let's face it, originality is perhaps the most important aspect of any art form since it lays the groundwork for the continual evolution and innovation of that form. Most remakes, even the good ones, fail to do that (I'd place the '79 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the '86 remake of The Fly as being the only two exceptions I've seen yet).
September 19, 2011
Remakes can indeed work as long as it does expand and make some needed changes for a new generation. I know what you mean about 'importance', it is a subjective term when applied to an art form. Originality is indeed something very important as it may dictate how a generation can see something in the future, but honestly, I find how a story is told much more important. There are some original works that didn't make it since the storytelling was....blah.
September 19, 2011
LMAO! I want to see you entitle your next review "Blah". That accurately summarizes how I feel about the latest fantasy hash. As if the remake of Clash of the Titans wasn't horrid enough, along comes Immortals which couldn't be a more blatant rip-off.
September 19, 2011
Ok, you requested "Blah" so I delivered...please excuse me, I wrote that review in 15 minutes during my break. I really didn't want to review that movie since I saw it last Thursday....but I thought you wanted blah and blah you shall receive...LOL!!
September 26, 2011
Immortals does look pretty awesome.
September 26, 2011
It looks awful you mean? I just am so sick of films starring English, America, and Australian actors as ancient Greek heroes and Gods, loosely based upon Greek characters and myths, set in the ancient world, and yet the films bear no resemblance to either the myth or the history from which they are so blatantly derived. All these new sword and sorcery flicks can fizzle for all I care, because they have nothing to offer except terrible scripts, nonexistent acting, predictable plot lines, and a poor conversion to 3D.
September 26, 2011
actually I don't think IMMORTALS was intended to be a translation of the Greek myth but rather something along the lines of 300. It is being plugged as "300 meets Fight Club". If its focus is action then I can live with that. I know what you mean, but honestly, these days, I don't think most people don't want to see what we want to see. I'll go see it, but I won't go in already having decided that I won't like it.
September 26, 2011
But that's the problem. "300" was a historically inaccurate and politicized retelling of an actual historical event and "Immortals" is essentially a mythologically inaccurate and politicized retelling of a classic myth.
September 26, 2011
Dude, 300 clearly states 'Based on the comic book written by Frank Miller" which was a violent stylized exercise that takes the true story to begin with, it never said it was based on historical fact. Immortals says "loosely" based on the Greek mythological characters....so if you go in expecting a history lesson or something in mythology then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. I am not saying Immortals would be awesome, but I am open to anything.
September 26, 2011
Yes, but I'm talking about the fact that these films take history and mythology and turn them (meaning the films) into dumb exercises in how to make an action movie that lacks originality and capitalizes on the success of other films which are vastly superior. Frank Miller fed into that by not bothering with historical accuracy and by presenting the story within a modern sociopolitical view. Many people today are too lazy to research the real events of Greco-Persian Wars and would rather go to the cinema than read a book on the subject, so I think it would be wise to start making films that accurately represent the way things happened or were at least recorded by historians to have happened, rather than taking cheap action-fantasy storytelling and passing it off as being either factual or even a legendary account.
October 06, 2011
Dude, I know what you are saying, but taking it as a historical lesson would be the viewer's fault since it does say "a fictionalized account based on the Battle of Thermopylae" and the movie says based on the comic book. Miller didn't want accuracy and wanted a comic that would sell. You cannot fault something for being something it wasn't intended to be. 300 is actually one of my fave comic book adaptations to date. Remember it is "Comic Book and not a History lesson"....
October 07, 2011
You're still not understanding what I'm saying though. Whether it was intended to be accurate or not is irrelevant, since the film makes no effort whatsoever to establish that it is a action-fantasy film and not a stylized recounting of history, and as the average viewer isn't likely to have brushed up on the history of the Greco-Persian wars, then there needs to be an acknowledgement that the film's presentation of the story bears little resemblance to the actual events. And whether you argue the film's merits as an adaptation of the comic book or not, and it is a strong adaptation in terms of faithfulness, one cannot discount the cultural insensitivity, the homophobia, and the pro-fascist message found in both the book and the film.
October 07, 2011
Yeah, we're both on the wrong wavelength. I know what you mean, but if you use common sense, no one would wear speedos into battle. I just think people are smarter and would know it is based on a comic. I mean I saw the History Channel doco that coincided with 300, so I knew more about the actual events.
October 07, 2011
Actually, the one historical tidbit that Miller went with which was surprising was that he did accurately portray how many ancient warriors went into battle: naked or nearly naked. Did you know in ancient Rome when the soldiers returned from battle, they would hang the disembodied penises of their enemies from their war chariots as a lucky charm. Not so lucky for the guy who lost it.
October 08, 2011
Yeah, I know, but as I remember the Spartans were naked but they wore armor (at least according the History channel show I saw). I heard about that. Romans were a pretty barbaric lot.
October 08, 2011
Back then, who wasn't?! LOL!
September 18, 2011
excellent review. Very well written. It did bother me that she didn't tell her husband about the rape, but then again...he had enough to be angry about LOL
September 18, 2011
Yeah, I think in a way, the script was trying to plant an idea that she felt guilty, and maybe inject a question as to whether or not she did consent to Charlie. She just didn't realize that there was another guy next in line, and it made Amy more shall we say, furious about herself? How have you been? Did you review WARRIOR?
September 18, 2011
We didn't review Warrior'. Thought Nolte was great but it was so slow and the scenes went on too long. We reviewed 'Drive' Everyone seemed to love it, except us...Now I feel like I missed something. Just thought it was so indulgent and the music...yuck. so cheesy. Anyway I'm being redundant. LOL. Seeing MACHINE GUN PREACHER and MONEYBALL this week. Also either DIRTY GIRL OR BONKARU. Do you know anything about BONKARU...the one with Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore and Josh Hartnet? Think it's based on comic book. Not sure. Hope you're having a great weekend.
September 18, 2011
Mchine Gun Preacher really does look interesting and Moneyball I just have to see because it is about baseball. I will either see DRIVE or FRIGHT NIGHT (so late for it) shortly. I did hear about BONKARU and it is on my list. "Dirty Girl"....the title alone has gotten my attention. It is so hot here in SF....nice!!
September 18, 2011
Can't wait to hear what you think of 'Drive'. 'Dirty girl' is hot...at least the lead...Juno Temple is LOL. Stay cool.
September 19, 2011
Juno Temple.....hmm...ok I am interested. LOL

September 18, 2011
I was wondering about this, great review man.
September 18, 2011
Thanks, Alex! I was happy I saw this one, now I am leaving to catch either Fright Night or Drive. I tend to play things by ear on Sundays and see which show is earlier before I do errands...
More Straw Dogs (2011 remake) reviews
review by . February 13, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" was released in 1971 and was immediately misjudged, seemingly at the very moment of its arrival. It sent movie-goers either running for the hills - never to look back again - or scratching their chins in an attempt to find some sort of intellectual meaning for what they had just witnessed. The film itself was the story of a mathematician and his wife who moves back to the latter's hometown - a small, quiet little town in England …
review by . September 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         I described Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 version of Straw Dogs as visceral, disturbing, and unpleasant, and without a doubt, those same qualities apply to Rod Lurie’s 2011 remake. What surprises me is that this new version is far more agreeable, in large part because, while the basic story is exactly the same, the subtexts have been altered in such a way that they’re far more compelling. The original was essentially an extended metaphor …
review by . September 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Straw Dogs' 'Two Jews On Film' Have Different Takes On This Violent Remake (Video()
By Joan Alperin Schwartz      You are a Hollywood screenwriter.  You have a hot wife and a hot Jag.  You move to your wife's hometown in the Deep South after her father's death.  It's filled with God fearing, Bambi killing, football addicted, good ole Southern boys.  Do you really think you'll live happily ever after?      David Sumner (James Marsden) and his actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) …
Quick Tip by . December 22, 2011
A well done yet still completely unnecessary remake of the Peckinpah classic, its only major flaw is the thematic shift from man's internal struggle between civilized man and his predominantly savage nature to the more simplistic elements of class warfare.
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About this movie



Director: Rod Lurie
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: 16 September 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Rod Lurie, David Zelag Goodman
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