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 - who face harassment that I'd describe as of both the verbal and physical variety. Peckinpah had created a powerful, philosophically engaging meditation on the subject of violence that is both admired and reviled to this day. Some say it has not aged particularly well; others say it hasn't budged in terms of quality. Nevertheless, it was a film made in a style that simply could not be improved upon in a remake or re-imagining of some sort; the visual stylistics weren't overly flashy (and THEY certainly aren't dated), and the characters might still be believable today as they were when the story was set in the lower end of the 1970's.
Here's my point: there was no need for a remake; the remake that has been made is unnecessary. But if you've got the talent to make an unnecessary film completely entertaining and perhaps even a little provocative; I'd say you're pretty damn good at what you do. The director of the 2011 "Straw Dogs" is Rod Laurie; an obvious admirer of the original film. He might not have admired it enough to give the opportunity to remake it an easy "pass"; but he's given us the "Straw Dogs" remake that we never wanted nor thought we would see. It's just as intense - although not quite as memorable - as the original film. It neither improves nor disrespects the overall image and quality of the story as it once was.
Laurie's re-telling of the story is not set in England. Instead, the action takes place in Mississippi. The central characters remain almost entirely the same however, and the couple emerges in-tact for this version of the tale; although the man of the house is no longer a mathematician, but instead a screenwriter. Their names are David (James Marsden) and Amy (Kate Bosworth). Indeed, just like in the original film, they have just moved to their new location (of Blackwater Mississippi); where Amy grew up during the course of her childhood and teen years. Upon arriving, the two get acquainted with the town pub as well as those who often occupy it; particularly a suave character from Amy's romantic past named Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) and his redneck buddies.
Charlie and his entire circle of friends have agreed to fix up the roof on the barn that lies on the land that Amy and David have purchased. They're mostly consistent in their work; although when they're not hammering away at boards, they've got their eyes on David's beautiful wife, and other times, on him. This appears distressing; perhaps Charlie wants Amy back; although we know she does not want him. However, Charlie is a determined fellow; discreet in his impeccable hatred for David and the prize that he has coveted; which was once his.
Let's see. I don't think I'd be spoiling too, too much if I told you that the film ends in a particularly violent shoot-out between the drunken local hillbillies and the two main characters. The struggle is over a man that they are sheltering in their home; the village idiot (Dominic Purcell) who has been engaged in a secretive romantic relationship with the town football coach's (James Woods) young daughter. The coach fears that the poor man has done something wrong to his girl, and thus, he will stop at nothing to "bring him to justice", even if it means killing those unassociated with whatever crime he believes this man has committed. No matter, if the coach is going to load his gun and fire it at either Amy or David; they're going to fight back, and what ensues is a bloody show-down of sorts. Like in the original film, it's thrilling and exciting, but meant to bear some deeper, more thought-provoking message about violence and its affects. This remake does not shed such skin; although I found myself rooting for the struggle instead of being repulsed by the inhumanity exploited within it, which takes away from the power of this version of "Straw Dogs".
No matter, as a fan of the original movie, I have a lot of respect for Laurie's envisioning. It didn't absolutely NEED to get made; but it was made, and it was made well. That is all I ask from Hollywood these days when it comes to remakes; and "Straw Dogs" brings just a bit more than usual to the table. Performances from Marsden, Bosworth, and others are first-rate; as is the level of suspense and tension. I enjoyed watching this version of the "Straw Dogs" story because it mixes the things that I liked about the original film with things that were not present at all. Laurie has made his "Straw Dogs" a new movie in itself, rather than making Peckinpah's film all over again. He may lack the man's philosophical brilliance, but he has all the skill necessary to deliver the goods; and that he does. "Straw Dogs", like its great original, may not be for the squeamish; but I recommend it to the strong-stomached and the strong-minded, wholeheartedly.
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 … more
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 … more
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) … more
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.
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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