Straw Dogs (2011)
Directed by: Rod Lurie
Written by: David Zelag Goodman, Gordon Williams, Rod Lurie, Sam Peckinpah
Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, Dominic Purcell, James Marsden, James Woods, Kate Bosworth
FILM: STRAW DOGS
DIRECTED BY: Rod Lurie
STARRING: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods
RUNNING TIME:110 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY: Sony Pictures
OUT NOT TO RENT AND BUY
The Hughes Verdict!
I remember the gasp of shock when Gus Van Sant announced that he was re-making Psycho. There was not much of an outcry at first, just a stunned silence because back then even in the 90’s, redoing such films like Hitchcock’s classic was just unthinkable. The silence started to crack when production started, from shock came anger and nearly every single Norman Bates fan wanted the film to flop badly and even though they had their wish, it was the intrigue of the whole show that had the film studio’s sit up and take note. I mean nothing beats really good publicity than re-making an old classic simply because the intrigue is there from the off.
Look at it this way, even those who poured hatred at the whole idea of a return to Bates Motel was probably there on opening night, because the need to know if it is good is just to overwhelming for many fans. This is why many new versions of these films do so well on the opening week, you get the old fans rushing in to see how badly they have redone it and then leave in such anger that the word of mouth kills the box office figures for the second week. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but over the past few years many remakes have sunk without trace, failing to find love with new and old fans all over the world.
Having seen this trend grow over the last ten years, I can now understand why classics like Halloween and Friday 13th were remade. The studio’s themselves had milked the franchise for all their worth with endless sequels so there was only one place left and that was remake land and because Myers and Jason are such iconic characters who will stand the test of time for many years yet, there was a genuine reason behind the madness.
There is no logic though in stepping back into the path of Straw Dogs, a film banned for many years because of that infamous rape scene which is a bit unfair because apart from that notorious moment, its also well respected for being a genre classic from the directing lens of Sam Peckinpah. Yes the original film was made way back in 1971 and I suppose the thirty one year gap meant that the film is ripe for a new imagination, but you can not help but have thoughts of “why” right from the off!.
When I sat down to watch the new version I was hoping to find some love because I am not a huge fan of the original. Yes I really do appreciate what it is and I love Dustin Hoffman in the role, but the film arrived in my life a bit too late for me to watch. By then I had already seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the original Spit On You Grave, so when I finally saw this banned classic, I was expecting a little bit more.
Please do not for one minute believe I am taking anything away from the film, its just because it was “banned” I was expecting a blood bath but instead what I was watching was an intelligent film which I thought at the time was misjudged by many. The plot itself was quite bare but it was built on the odd relationship between the two leads who I felt were two totally different people, not quite right for each but at the end came through when it mattered. I still believe that the “rape scene” overshadowed a really good drama film because that’s what it was, a real good drama piece and not a horror by any means.
So I did have high hopes that maybe this would rock my boat in more ways than it did others and when the credits rolled I was quite hoping that I would be writing up a review, different to those that are out there, because lets be honest, its hard to find a decent good word to say about this remake
For those unfamiliar with the plot we are introduced to Hollywood screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth) who following the death of Amy’s father leaves the big city to spend some time in Amy’s Southern hometown to stay in an old house away from everyone and everything. David is the big fish in the small pond, he looks out of place and uncomfortable but tries his best to fit in to please his wife who arrives in town like she has never been away. Meeting up with ex boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) who straight away strikes up a dislike for David, the tensions rise when the married couple ask Charlie and his work mates to fix the roof on the barn of their home. They turn up, Amy flirts for a bit, David tells her “she is asking for it!”, which of course happens which results in a climatic siege where life or death is only seconds away.
First the positive and the acting on show is one thing you can not put your nose up too. While Marsden is no Hoffman, he still does a good job as the man who needs to turn against his beliefs to protect his loved one and its nice to see Skarsgård step out from his role of Eric in True Blood and play the lead bad guy. He holds the tension up well between David even though I have seen him be more darker in the hit TV Show. The weakest link is probably Bosworth who really adds nothing to the role of Amy apart from looking pretty and this is where the negatives start to come from.
Rod Lurie’s redo is just totally bland and pretty dull which should not be for the subject matter on hand. In an age where gore porn and holidays go bad horror are all the rage, Straw Dogs should in lovely between the lines but the plot is so dull that it fails to entice from the off. There is nothing here which will excite the new generation and the sad thing is if there was no 1971 original, then this movie would be instantly forgettable.
Now I do not mean to sound offensive here but even the rape scene is boring. Now I know you should not glamorise rape in any way but what I mean is that I just did not feel the plight that Amy was going through. If you take a look at the remake of I Spit On Your Grave, then that poor woman went through the mill and it was horrific to see but when she got her revenge, you were like “go bitch, get those fuckers!”, but with Straw Dogs 2012, well it totally lacks any passion and fails to get the emotional edge that a film of this kind requires.
Interesting is the change of dynamic of the plot in terms of relationships. In the original, it was husband and wife who seemed at odds and have a different way of life but in this remake its centred on David and Charlie and its a huge flaw in the new version. Yes they are both chalk and cheese but by trying to raise the tension between the two rids the use of Amy who like I said is just there in the background to look pretty and then get raped. Sadly even the appearance of James Woods fails to rise the film up through murky waters and the film just limps along all the way towards the finale which even if you have not seen the original you will guess what is coming long before the sound of gun fire.
Straw Dogs 2012 sadly fits in the ever-growing pile of remakes that offer nothing new for fans of old. Its a film that lacks all kind of tension and thrills and quite simply bored the shit out of me.
Check Out The Doc’s Cinema Review of Straw Dogs right here: