Straw Dogs (2011) 15
I know this is blasphemy to some but I was never totally sold on Peckinpah's 1971 original. Unforgettable, yes, thanks to a controversial rape scene and an explosive finale, but it always seemed to me a movie that was hanging around until those two sequences. This faithful remake suffers the same fate but kudos to Rod Lurie (The Last Castle) for not shying away from the murky territory of the original's sexual politics.
Hollywood screenwriter James Marsden, looking for some quiet to work on his script, and hometown girl turned actress Kate Bosworth, have arrived in the Bosworth's childhood town of Blackwater, Miss., a God-fearing community that loves its hunting, football and beer. Bosworth's ex, Skarsgard, is knocking about and there's still a little sexual tension between them, something Marsden tries to ignore when he employs Skarsgard and his buddies to rebuild his shed roof. However, the liberties Skarsgard and his workmates take about the house and the lusty eyes they shoot Bosworth's sweaty physique when she returns from her daily jog eat away at Marsden's good humour, while his 'city boy' attitude starts to rankle with the locals. It can only go one way...
The location shift from Cornwall to Mississippi works as it brings with it the historical tensions of the north/south divide and a little movie history too (we think of The South and we think of Deliverance). It changes the metaphor of the fight, however: it's no longer local thugs vs. a meek intellectual, but Hometown American Values vs. West Coast Liberalism. Other things have changed. Since the original, movie audiences have become desensitised to violence; Peckinpah's film was about the shock of watching a mousy gentleman go postal - with the remake that's what we pay to see.
In the scene that supposedly gives her ex and co the 'come on', Bosworth's actions don't make a lick of sense. Her tight t-shirt sticking close to her body, she angrily barges into the kitchen to complain to Marsden that the roofers are giving her inappropriate looks. Incensed that Marsden won't do anything about it - he argues, in a clumsily written scene, that men will look if women are dressed like 'that' - she goes upstairs and purposely undresses in plain view of the roofers. This is an important scene, as it kick-starts the famous controversy that is to come, but characters' actions here aren't consistent.
The escalation of tension - one slight builds on another to make everyone's actions justifiable to themselves - should be smooth but it's a jumpy intensification; those who are calm and reserved suddenly become raving maniacs baying for blood. While the reasons for the siege don't to hold water, it is as equally messy and violent as Peckinpah's; deliberately rough looking, it's a wild, anti-choreographed action sequence.
The performances are solid enough, with Skarsgard in star-making form, but it's hard to fathom why this remake had to be made and what it has to say about today. Lurie does give us a lot to chew over but we've already chewed it over.
Review by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Thursday 28th October 2010 | Movie Review
Remakes... we need them like a hole in the head. Well, colour me surprised that this remake of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 classic turns out to be a solid, respectful update. It keeps all the core elements of the original, including the central rape/love scene and thankfully updates the politics involving male/female relationships. The 1971 film is always going to trouble modern audiences, particularly with Peckinpah's 2-dimensional approach to women. However, the new Amy (an excellent Kate Bosworth) is a much more rounded character even if she's as morally conflicted as in the original. It would be hard to make a bad film out of such a cracking story, so while this new version may have its flaws (James Marsden isn't quite wimpy enough) it moves along at a tight pace and delivers the goods. It even throws in an explanation of what the title means. It can't quite match the original, but it doesn't need to. It can stand firmly on its two feet and is all the better for it. If you're a fan of the original like myself, give it a chance and you might just be surprised...Posted 19:32 | Sat 5th Nov 2011
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