“Straw Dogs” Review

HollywoodNews.com: If not for the fact that it were a remake of a beloved 1971 Sam Peckinpah film, Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs would be a prime example of what we claim we want in our popcorn entertainment. It is, quite simply, an old-fashioned star-driven thriller with an emphasis on character and relationships. It stars adults, concerns adults, and deals with explicitly adult subject matter. That it doesn’t quite work as a piece of social commentary is merely a strike against it, but the picture remains intelligent and tense throughout. I suppose we can discuss the irony of something that was quite controversial back in 1971 being rather run-of-the-mill today. To paraphrase The Tower of Power, what’s hip yesterday, will today become passé.

A token amount of plot: David and Amy Sumner (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth) have temporarily relocated to Amy’s Deep South childhood neighborhood following the death of her father. David is a Hollywood screenwriter attempting to craft a script about the Battle of Stalingrad, while Amy is his movie-star wife. Alas, cultures soon clash as David finds himself not-quite blending in with the very ‘Red State’ locals and the neighbors, including Amy’s high-school boyfriend, take a more than appropriate interest in the hometown hero come home. Needless to say, tensions rise, tragedies occur, and David will be forced to find out what kind of man he really is.

What was somewhat novel back in 1971, that of a mild-mannered educated man unleashing his inner violence in self-defense, is almost a cliché forty years later. Graphic violence in films that aren’t pure action pictures or horror films is more-or-less accepted even while if gets more press than it should. And, for better or worse, rape scenes such as the one in both Straw Dogs films are not quite as controversial as they were back in the day. For what it’s worth, this new version does remove the whole ‘did she enjoy it?’ bit from the original, which is probably a wise choice. The whole discussion over the original film is downright silly, as rape is still rape even if the woman (for whatever reason that I’m in no position to judge) finds moments of pleasure during what clearly is a home invasion and violent sexual assault. Removing that token element nips a stupid conversation in the bud and can allow audiences to focus on the overall picture. Anyway, with that out of the way, I can say that the Lurie remake follows the original story line pretty closely and, (to my loose recollection) the third act pay-offs are even pretty similar.

Photo by Steve Dietl

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