Straw Dogs (2011)
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie
Based On: “Straw Dogs” (1971 Film) By: Sam Peckinpah & David Zelag Goodman “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm” (Novel) By: Gordon Williams
Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, Dominic Purcell, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland, James Woods
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 110 minutes
USA Release: 9/16/2011
On DVD (USA): 12/20/2011
Talk about the ultimate home invasion, “Straw Dogs” a remake of the 1971 film starring Dustin Hoffman, with both versions being adaptations of the 1969 novel “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm” by Gordon Williams. With the act of violence being brought upon the house can James Marsden and company keep the intruders out and more importantly does this version hold up to the previous or does it just go too far?
The story follows David Sumner (James Marsden) a Los Angeles scriptwriter and his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) a TV actress. They have just moved to Blackwater, Mississippi, where Amy grew up. They are coming back to rebuild her recently deceased father’s house and also so that David can finish a script. While there they meet the locals, which include Amy’s ex Charlie Venner (Alexander Skarsgård) and his friends, who are also the group that is going to fix David and Amy’s barn roof. Some of the other locals are “Coach” Tom Heddon (James Woods), his 15-year-old daughter Janice (Willa Holland), mentally handicapped Jeremy Niles (Dominic Purcell) and his brother Daniel (Walton Goggins). Things seem normal, as Charlie and his group show up for work (although that is a bit early for what David is use to), testing David’s limits throughout the day. David goes along with it, even after Amy begins to get taunted than harassed. But after the couple’s cat mysteriously get killed, things start to take a terrible turn as nothing and no one is off limits.
For the most part “Straw Dogs” didn’t necessarily need to be remade since this sticks very closely to the original script, but it is very well done and stays true to what it was suppose to deliver. Rod Lurie who wrote and also directed this kept to the same formula as the 1971 film, just making minor adjustments to character backgrounds, location and bringing it up to the times. Unlike other remakes this was done with the right amount of space having been 40 years since the original, that being said it might have not be necessary at all since it doesn’t bring a whole lot of new things to the story, so you could just see the original. However to some this might just be an awful remake, I quite enjoyed it even though I knew what was coming having seen the original. I feel that this is on the same level at the 71 version, not better or worse. To further clarify I’m not the biggest fan of the original to begin with, and I feel the same about this version as well, both take a long time to get to where they are going, although I like the build up it just seems too slow. In this version though they make David a scriptwriter instead of a mathematician and originally set in the UK it is now set in Mississippi. With that the story itself changes having certain event take place somewhere else, and to that I have to give credit to Lurie, who having made those changes kept the story just as smooth almost like it was always set in that location. Each substitute location and story line works together so well in this version it actually surprised me. Another thing different is the violence which is somewhat heightened than the 71 version, which is surprising because of the controversy it had in 1971, it now is nothing we haven’t seen in other movies. Moving on to the cinematography it was also done well with it’s use of corner shots as well has chaotic camera movement, which because of the editing adds to the somewhat suspenseful story. The music in this was ok, it was done very well but ended up giving the ominous feeling fairly early into the movie.
Some of the best things about this was the actors in the lead roles, but we will get to that in a minute. First lets talk about the supporting, James Woods, as always goes all out, but is sometimes a bit over the top with his portrayal of “Coach” who is pretty much the town drunk. With his short temper it’s surprising that he isn’t in jail 24/7. Although there are more actors in the supporting cast, their roles are very small so I have no reason to review them, because if I did it would give too much away. So moving on, the main cast Kate Bosworth does a pretty good job as Amy, her character gets more screen time and is involved a lot more through out the movie than in the original. She fits what the character is, a small town attractive girl who is now with this smart guy, so she tries to educate herself more. Bosworth also does well with the emotions side of the role, unlike the original where you might get mixed signals in certain scenes, they are a lot more clear in this. Alexander Skarsgård makes a surprisingly great bad guy. Playing Charlie, he is sly as he continues to test the limits of David because he isn’t their idea of a man. While testing David he is trying his best to win Amy back and he doesn’t care what he has to do to win. As for James Marsden I though he was perfectly cast as David, he has the look and feel of sophistication. Although in the original we see more of David’s short temper, in this it only strikes up near the last half. Throughout the movie we watch as Marsden and Skarsgård quietly bump heads while trying to not show that they know what the other is trying to do, and the two work very well together on getting that across.
Overall, “Straw Dogs” actually works, although you can easily just watch the original, this versions holds up just as well. After changing the characters background, location and time period, the 2011 version shows more violence and darker tone throughout. The actors do very well delivering this story so it’s worth a look. But unless your unfamiliar with the story, this won’t keep you on the edge of your seat. So if you have seen the original 1971 version, I’d say skip it or wait until the DVD as you will see everything coming.