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Straw Dogs

a film by Rod Lurie

Let's just get something off our backs right up front. This Rod Lurie-directed remake of Straw Dogs is in no way, shape or form, comparable to the subversive Sam Peckinpah original. I know comparisons are inevitable when talking about remakes, and the latter-day versions will, with just a handful of unique exceptions, come up on the wrong end of the stick every time, but I don't think such a thing is necessary here. Peckinpah's 1971 original had guts and balls and the appropriate amount of Peckinpah chutzpah, while this mainstream Hollywood retread, though a bit ballsy as well (ballsy by modern mainstream standards that is), can never live up to the seditious stature of its predecessor. 'nuff said. Now we can leave all that expected critical baggage behind, and go on and properly review the movie in question.

Actually staying surprisingly faithful to the original (time, place and reason notwithstanding), Lurie's film is about a young couple - she an actress, he a screenwriter - who decide to travel back to the young actress's backwater hometown (not-so-ironically called Blackwater) so he can work on a new screenplay. As the woman, played by Kate Bosworth, garbed in as skimpy clothes as possible, is leered at by all the slithery men in town (and apparently in this part of small town America, pretty much every male around is some sort of slithery) and her husband, played by James Marsden, in hot nerd mode, shrugs it off as boys being boys ("you could wear a bra"), we see the danger looming. Hell, even if you have no foreknowledge of the original film, you can see it coming the proverbial mile away. And this is really the main fault that tears this film apart.

Leaning less toward the ideas of pacifism and cowardice that Peckinpah exuded from the original (Dustin Hoffman's mathematician from the 1971 version, suffered from an oblivious cultural ignorance), and much much more toward just plain stupidity (Marsden's screenwriter suffers from plain and arrogant idiocy), Lurie's film pretty much shatters about midway through. If Marsden's ivy league Hollywood pretty boy cannot see that his wife getting leered at by a bunch of backwoods, podunk rednecks with their rebel flags and alcohol problems, is going to inevitably lead to some pretty tragic fucking circumstances, then perhaps he is an even bigger idiot than, with his cocksure passive-aggressiveness, he assumes his wife is. It is not balls Marsden's character lacks (which was the case at first with Hoffman) but brains. But then - and I suppose I do have a bit more comparing in my critical bag after all - one cannot expect this new creature of a remake to live up to something that a beautiful bastard like Peckinpah would create. [09/28/11]

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