Directed by Rod Lurie
I know there’s been a lot of online hate toward the Straw Dogs remake because it’s a retread of one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time, but personally, I think that’s a rather unfair attack. After all, the new Straw Dogs flick, which stars James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard, does a bang up job of sucking all on its own without even having to compare the new movie to its flawless and timeless source material.
If you’ve seen the original Straw Dogs by legendary filmmaker Sam Peckinpah, then you know exactly what kind of story to expect in this movie (this pretty much remakes the 1971 original beat for beat with the only creative leaps taken being huge misfires causing major plot holes). I mean, if you’re going to have the gumption enough to remake a classic film like this, then you better have something pretty spectacular tucked up your sleeve to wow audiences with the remake, making it a worthwhile venture. Sadly, there’s absolutely nothing worthwhile going on here at all.
In Straw Dogs we meet young married couple Amy (Bosworth) and David (Marsden) Sumner, who are driving cross-country from Hollywood to Mississippi to stay at Amy’s family farm back in the small town the up-and-coming actress hails from originally. With her moving on from her small-town roots and becoming a famous actress who returns with an emasculated “Hollywood-type” of a husband on her arm, Amy’s return stirs up a whole heap of a mess right off the bat.
We find out that when Amy skipped town for California, she left behind her hottie boyfriend, the town’s alpha male Charlie (Skargard), who wants right back into the former cheerleader’s pants as soon as he catches a whiff of her perfume in the air. In a good-natured gesture to try and make friendly with the locals, nice-guy David hires Charlie and his crew to work on a damaged barn on Amy’s family property, but all the guys end up doing is using the income opportunity as a chance to pick on the cowardly David, ogle Amy (who apparently is allergic to bras) and act like truly stereotypical rednecks.
From there things escalate – Amy and David are continuously pushed to the breaking points by the local bullies’ actions time and time again, but neither wants to leave their home. Then Amy’s raped (but never tells her husband) by former flame Charlie and one of his cohorts after they leave David stranded in the middle of the woods during a hunting trip gone awry. One night David and Amy take in a local retarded man named Jeremy (Dominic Purcell) who’s suspected of killing the teenage daughter of football coach and town hero Tom Heddon (Woods) after they accidentally hit him when he stumbled in front of their car. Heddon rounds up Charlie and his gang to head out to the farm to retrieve Jeremy so they can enforce some ‘local justice‘ on him.
What happens then is that David gets pushed to the brink when it’s apparent the men outside will stop at nothing to get Jeremy out of his house so he grows a pair and fights back, ultimately becoming an alpha male himself.
As psychological thrillers go, Straw Dogs is about as mediocre as they come. Every moment of tension that the film is trying to build toward in the third act blatantly slaps you right upside your head during the first and second acts. Writer/director Lurie adds absolutely nothing here to make Straw Dogs even attempt to be its own movie, and any efforts it may have made to try to capture the essence of Peckinpah’s original fails triumphantly.
Even the semi-talented cast in Straw Dogs seem bored with the material they were given to work with, which is a shame because you’d think we’d have at least some traces of an Eric Northman-esque type villain to enjoy in the movie. Unfortunately, Skarsgard isn’t nearly as charismatic here as he is in “True Blood” and never quite gets a chance to define his character. Bosworth is just terrible from start to finish (Lurie really made her character pouty and passive-aggressive toward everyone around her), and Marsden, whom I generally like, just never quite won me over with his performance as David.
Everyone in the film is written as just truly unlikable characters so by the movie’s climax, it’s nearly impossible to care who is left standing at the end.
One cool thing to note is that right before Straw Dogs screened, we were treated to an extended preview of David Fincher’s upcoming thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that featured about eight minutes of the flick and gave the audience a better look at what we can expect when the movie hits theaters on December 21, 2011.
Knowing very little about the source material, I must say that this is now one of my most anticipated movies in the coming months. Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer and Stellan Skarsgaard all looked great in the footage, which roared along at a breakneck pace to a soundtrack provided by Oscar-winner Trent Reznor, the NIN frontman who won an Academy Award earlier this year for his work on Fincher’s The Social Network.
Extended previews for other movies aside, the bottom line here is that Straw Dogs is definitely worth skipping in theaters and, frankly, is a remake that never needed to happen in the first place. Just keep your money, rent the original from Netflix and thank me later for saving you a few bucks and 110 minutes of your time!
2 out of 5