Straw Dogs (Rated R) 3 Stars
Straw Dogs (110 minutes) is a remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 film, which was itself based on a novel, The Siege of Trencher’s Farm. Thankfully, they kept the übercool poster art. Too bad they also kept the completely unnecessary sexual violence (not original to the novel, FYI).
Now, I suspect I am in the feminist minority when I say the 1971 original cut used the violence in such a specific way that I am not ready to dismiss the entire scene as a misogynistic waste of the viewer’s time. Of course, much of that sort of criticism is due to the studio’s foolish decision to edit the cut originally released in the U.S. The studio edit was intended to reduce the overall amount of sexual violence, but it tended to reinforce the mistaken idea that “No” means “Yes” by removing crucial scenes.
The uncut original film showed far more violence towards women, but actually did a better job of demonstrating the female lead’s lack of consent. As far as the remake is concerned though, I don’t think the rape scene served any purpose besides Rob Lurie wanting to be Sam Peckinpah. And this should go without saying, but Lurie is no Peckinpah.
Having said that, I wasn’t a fan of the original, and I am not a fan of the remake. I will totally give Kate Bosworth credit for doing a much bet-ter job with the complex material than Susan George. I will even say I didn’t hate James Marsden as much as I usually do, what with his Hollywood cheek bones and stupid bouncy hair. If you measure a movie by the amount of conversation it in-spires, than this one isn’t bad.
The action is moved from the UK to Mississippi, which adds another layer of complexity to already weighty material, adding a commentary on class warfare and hinting at deep seated racial tension. One scene in particular points to a painful lack of beer variety in small southern towns.
Passive Aggressive Fancy Pants David Sumner (Marsden) and his wife Amy (Bosworth) are taking a vacation from stardom to enjoy some bucolic scenery in Amy’s hometown. They need to hire some contractors to repair the barn roof, so naturally David hires the one guy in town who has a history with his wife. Because David has a pathological need to be liked.
First, David is angry that Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) starts too early. Then he is angry that Charlie starts too late. David is super hard to please. Also superhard to please? Coach Tom Heddon (James Woods), who is the violent angry kind of drunk who won’t leave the bar when asked. He spends most of the film starting fights with everyone who is not his daughter, but especially with Jeremy Niles (Dominic “PrisonBreak” Purcell). Jeremy is giving off a bit of a “Lenny” vibe, and I keep waiting for him to ask George about the rabbits.
After establishing that Amy is not thrilled with David’s plan to move to smalltown America and that Skarsgård is the tallest man on the planet, the contractors promptly begin their work by taking a break to ogle Amy. David engages in some victim blaming, and Amy responds by performing a strip tease for the contractors.
Despite Amy’s anger, David continues to sing the “Three Best Friends” song from The Hangover, even though the constructions guys are clearly not his friends. As the violent climax approaches, the tension ratchets up, perhaps a bit too quickly. Is the director leaving certain events unknown to lend the inci-dents a certain real life ambiguity? Or is the director moving so quickly in order to emphasize that spur of the moment decisions lead to tragedy?
Now showing at Wynnsong 7, Carmike 12 and Carmike Market Fair 15.