Straw Dogs Directed by: Rod Lurie Cast: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgaard, James Woods Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: September 16, 2011
PLOT: A couple (Marsden and Bosworth) moves back into his wife's hometown only to be intimidated and terrorized by the locals including Charlie (Skarsgaard).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Who ordered the Straw Dogs remake? Because that's probably the only person who wants to see a retread of something that doesn't need a second cinematic interpretation.
EXPECTATIONS: I had not seen any trailers for this new movie, but I have seen Peckinpah's film. There's never been a time in my life in which I've thought, "Oh, I sure hope to see a remake of Straw Dogs!"
James Marsden as David Sumner: Marsden's Davis is not a mathematician like Hoffman's, but in the movie world he's the same thing - he's an adapting screenwriter (his movie is even a "universal tale of the survival and the fighting spirit, AKA Straw Dogs). Marsden is best here when showing the effeminate characteristics of David, and wears pink buttoned down shirts and upper-class grins well. The clunkiest aspect of this performance is a lack of believable growth to pushover to monster. When the chaos starts to heat up during the third act, he goes to an automatic hero mode, taking away from the believability of a significant inner-growth. Score: 5
Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner: This character is kind of meant to be like tearful fresh meat for Straw Dogs, and Bosworth is OK in this role. We get a pretty good feeling of her anguish towards the beginning of the third act. In case you can't tell, I'm literally shrugging my shoulders as I type about her. Score: 4
Alexander Skarsgaard as Charlie: Standing notably taller than Skarsgard, he's certainly intimidating over people like Sumner, whether he's being nice or just pretending to. His eyes can function as being either disarming or even a tad disturbing. Score: 6
James Woods as Coach: The idea of the "straw dog" is given a little enrichment from Woods' crazy, cuss-heavy coach, who controls his "players" long after they've graduated high school. At times he's just a psychopathic older gentleman, whenever he's not overdoing his character. Score: 5
TALKING: This movie really has manliness on the mind, as the characters often have confrontations concerning power, respect, and what it means to be a man. Straw Dogs does have one advantage over its original, in that it actually discusses what the term means, and then associates them with people whose lives seem to end after high school. Score: 6
SIGHTS: Sure, if you want some blood and violence, (and you've missed the entire point of this movie), you'll get some in the third act. However similar the movie might be to its original, it is able to create tension with some of its moments, which are nicely edited. While those who have seen the final act know what's going to happen, this remake is still able to grab audiences with its violence. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The score provides obvious cues to the audience, giving them a heads up as to when to pay attention to particular interactions. The music doesn't enrich these moments, so much as function like someone breaking your concentration when they whisper in your ear randomly. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: The bear trap kill made for a pretty intense, bloody moment. I was lucky enough to have forgotten that something similar happens in the original version.
ENDING: Ouch. Bear trap to the throat.
QUESTIONS: Why? Seriously, who ordered the remake? People know you can rent movies from before 2009, right?
REWATCHABILITY: No, thanks. I've got all I need in just one viewing. Unless I'm going to write some paper comparing the two Straw Dogs films, I don't plan on re-visiting this one. If I feel such a tendency, I'll just watch Peckinpah's version instead.
Sam Peckinpah's original Straw Dogs is a movie that will always require a multitude of essays on its violence and masculinity to be fully understood. What it doesn't need for its analytical purposes is a copy-and-paste retread that's too lazy to add its own material.
Straw Dogs is this year's Let Me In. Just like how that movie lazily borrowed from Let the Right One In, this remake might have some decent moments of editing and cinematography, but it adds nothing new to its concept. In fact, it actually harms its story by making it seem a bit silly and kind of shallow, especially since it's aiming to entice modern audiences who thrive on "bad guy gets it!" conclusions (which is why Funny Games, the remake, is so brilliant). Marsden's performance isn't strong enough to prevent this remake from being much more than stale horror movie about heroic revenge.
I can't entirely blame you though, people curious about Straw Dogs, because the 1971 version is mysteriously unavailable to rent on Netflix (though it once was, as I can testify). Still, this remake of Straw Dogs has no stronger meaning for existence than to spread this message: "Netflix, please make Straw Dogs available to rent. Yes, the one starring Mr. Magorium. Thanks."
FINAL SCORE: 4/10