This weekend’s premiere on Starz was last year’s “Straw Dogs”, the remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 film.
Starring James Marsden and Kate Bosworth (both of whom I still hold grudges against for their complicity in “Superman Returns”), “Straw Dogs” is the story of a couple who return to the small Mississippi town she grew up in. Her father is recently deceased and they’ve inherited his home, but it’s suffered some damage in a recent hurricane. The crew that the couple hire to repair the home is comprised of men she knew from high school… unfortunately, they’re drunken, violent townies.
When the crew begins to lust after her, things get out of hand.
I’ll lead with the fact that I’ve never seen the Peckinpah/Hoffman original, so this review will be comparison free.
Marsden plays a Hollywood screenwriter without a backbone, and the crew of rednecks he’s hired to fix the home smell it like blood in the water. He’s moved to his wife’s country home in order to get some peace and quiet and work on a screenplay about the Battle of Stalingrad. The head of the construction crew (Alexander Skarsgård) is a violent, antagonistic redneck who dated Bosworth’s character in high school. He and his crew openly lust after her and do everything short of kick sand in Marsden’s face. They play their music much too loud, and constantly invade the couple’s privacy… walking into the house uninvited, taking beer, looking under the hood of his car without permission, that sort of thing. From the very outset it’s apparent they’re waging some kind of psychological warfare.
Tensions slowly mounts as the men push Mardsen further and further. Friction develops between husband and wife, as well. He gets possessive, and she gets angry that he’s so gutless. After a series of escalating events, Skarsgård and his crew eventually cross the line.
I’m going to give a little spoiler here, ok?
I would never say anything like “she asked for it” or anything moronic like that for real. There’s no justification for rape, ever. But I am going to say this. In terms of Movie Characters, ok? If you want to maintain your audience’s sympathies… do NOT “Flash” your future assailants. Ok? The minute Bosworth did that, and she does, my mind went into WTF are you thinking mode, and never entirely came out of it.
Also in the movie is James Woods as the local, drunken ex-high school football coach. His character has an issue with a local retarded man… He suspects the man may have designs on his underage daughter. Woods beats on the man publicly, and no one stops him. I thought at first that it was only included to reinforce the mentality of the town, but things eventually get very “Of Mice and Men”. After that, the construction crew and the coach are all after the man… Who conveniently winds up at the couple’s home.
It winds up confusing things… muddying the water. So when the inevitable, climactic home invasion/defense finally commences, there are unwelcome factors at play beyond the core character issues.
“Straw Dogs” is a decent enough movie, but there’s not a lot of justification for anything that goes on. The performances are all passable, but the characters are poorly motivated. It makes things feel rather pointless. The director, Rod Lurie doesn’t exactly have a deft hand, either. The end result feels very much like violence for violence’s sake… Ironically, a criticism levied at the original.