Straw Dogs: The Remake

This year’s remake of Straw Dogs comes by way of Rod Lurie, who you may know from The Contender and The Last Castle. Lurie wrote the screenplay, produced and directed this remake of the 1971 movie of the same name that starred Dustin Hoffman. In this version, James Marsden plays the Dustin Hoffman part, David Sumner. Playing David’s wife, Amy, is Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard as her ex-boyfriend, Charlie.

The movie opens with David and Amy driving into the small Southern town that Amy grew up in, Blackwater. We find out that Amy’s father has just died and they are moving back to her childhood home. Amy and David hire Charlie’s crew to fix their barn roof, and this invites many invasions into their idyllic privacy. At first, Amy delights in showing David the differences between their lives in Hollywood and their life now, but the town quickly shows its true colors. The town drunk (played fantastically by James Woods) is constantly overreacting and trying to fight the people that stand in his way. David professes at one point to want to stay neutral in the town drama, but Amy wants to jump into the fray. As things spiral out of control, we watch as Amy and David reach their breaking points.

I have seen the original film and this remake takes much of the spirit of that film and brings it to a new generation. Kate Bosworth’s portrayal of Amy is spot on, as she captures Amy’s along with her vulnerability during the violence that she endures. James Woods, who is always just this side of crazy, does well as the town drunk who turns from worried father to the leader of the violent mob. Skarsgard brings depth and feeling to a part that could have been written off as mean and jealous, and is the strongest part of the cast. The weakest, unfortunately, is James Marsden. The film tracks the changes in David from pacifist (and weak, to the other characters) to defender (and “man” in their eyes). Marsden does well in the arrogant and peaceable parts, but at the point where David must take action and deal with the violence, Marsden loses us and never feels true to the change in spirit.

Lurie keeps the grittiness from the original film and translates it to a world we would recognize, including the violence and pain. The characters are all people you could know and that is the power of the film. It shows that no matter how peaceful you may think you are, we all have basic animal instincts that we can revert to at anytime. You cannot judge them for the things they do, what anyone would do in their place. The movie is a snapshot of humanity, it is not good or bad, it just exists. It is not the kind of movie that you can rewatch all the time, but it is interesting to see, and ponder.

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~ by upbeatmag on October 9, 2011.

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