Straw Dogs (18)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner02/11/2011

Opens Friday 04 November 2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 109 mins

Watchable, if largely pointless remake enlivened by a strong cast and an impressively staged third act, though it drags a little in the middle section and slightly sanitises the impact of the original film.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by former film critic Rod Lurie, Straw Dogs is a remake of Sam Peckinpah's controversial 1971 thriller, transposing the action from darkest Cornwall to the American South. James Marsden stars as David Sumner, a Hollywood screenwriter married to smalltime TV actress Amy (Kate Bosworth), who moves to her home town of Blackwater, Mississippi so they can live in her inherited family home and he can work on his script about Stalingrad.

However, their arrival ruffles the feathers of both Amy's handsome ex-boyfriend Charlie (True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard) and raging bully Coach Heddon (James Woods). When David asks Charlie and his men (including Rhys Corio and Drew Powell) to fix their roof, tensions quickly escalate and the stage is set for a violent confrontation.

The Good
Marsden is excellent as David, though he does admittedly look like he'd be handier in a fight than Dustin Hoffman in the original film. Skarsgard is equally good, making Charlie a rather more complex character (heightened by his obvious sex appeal), while there's terrific support from James Woods and Prison Break's Dominic Purcell is effectively cast as a local retarded man whose relationship with Coach Heddon's sexually aggressive teenage daughter (Willa Holland) sparks the violent climax.

In updating the script, Lurie explores some interesting culture clashes between the Red and Blue States (Woods' attitude towards Laz Alonso's black Iraq war veteran cop is particularly telling), while the explosive final act is thrillingly handled, including some inventive use of household objects and a crowd-pleasingly grisly final moment.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that Lurie's version rather sanitises the nastier edges of the original film, particularly during the central rape scene, some of which occurs offscreen here (though, as in the original, Amy still chooses not to tell David what's happened). On top of that, Holland's attraction to Purcell's character doesn't really convince and the film drags a little in the middle section before rallying for its exciting final act.

Worth seeing?
As remakes go, Straw Dogs is entirely watchable thanks to strong performances and a decent script, though the various updated changes don't really justify the new version, especially given the sanding down of the original's rougher edges.

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Straw Dogs (18)
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Content updated: 04/11/2011 06:48

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