Straw Dogs an unrefined remake
Published: Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011 17:09
Straw Dogs, a remake of the 1971 film with the same name, is an above-average thriller devoid of gotcha moments, a predictable plot line and a gimmicky ending. During the climactic scenes, it keeps viewers furiously biting their nails. However, with a tighter screenplay, editing and direction, this film could have been one of the few great remakes.
David Sumner (James Marsden, X-Men) is a screenwriter who moves with his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth, Superman Returns) back to her hometown. The town epitomizes the deep south: there is only one police officer, any man who doesn't want to shame his family hunts and in one scene, during a church sermon, the townspeople pray to God to lead their high school football team to victory.
When David and Amy first arrive, they meet some of her old friends. Naturally, they don't take kindly to David's $100,000 Jaguar convertible, nor his white sneakers without laces. Most notably, Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard, Zoolander) greets David with a smile that subtly shows his hatred and jealousy. When David and Amy move into their house, they hire Charlie and his friends to fix the roof. They harass David and Amy relentlessly by loudly fawning over her body and blasting Southern rock so that David can't focus on his writing. When Charlie tells David something vital to the plot, creepy string orchestra music fills the background, and the camera circles around David and slowly zooms in on his face. The viewer feels the tension between Charlie and David. One night Charlie's crew presumably breaks into David and Amy's home and strangles their cat. After that, the film's pace picks up dramatically, climaxing with an ultra-violent final scene in which David must protect both Amy and himself.
The suspense in the movie is only increased with the actors' great work. Bosworth plays Amy with charisma and wit, elevating her from just another damsel in distress. Skarsgard keeps Charlie's hatred bubbling below the surface and unleashes it at the perfect time. However, it is Marsden who steals the show. He carries the film as a wimpy elitist who turns into a nerdy Rambo when Amy and his are in danger.
As compelling as Straw Dogs is, it could have benefited from more precise editing and a more coherent script. Director Rob Lurie (The Contender) spends too much time establishing the town and not enough time building the tension between David, Amy and Charlie. The film also would have improved if Lurie had completely removed large chunks of the film. In the opening scene, before the credits, a buck is walking in the woods. After hearing rustling, it is shot and collapses in front of the camera, prompting the title credits to flash on the screen. The image isn't jarring, and hunting has little significance in the film so it is puzzling why Lurie chose this as the opening.
Straw Dogs is good, but not great. A warning to anybody who may want to see this movie: The last 45 minutes of Straw Dogs are brutally violent. If you can sit through the violence, Straw Dogs is worth watching when you have time to kill and want to go off campus for a couple of hours.