Now Playing: A Peckinpah Classic Done Sweet Justice

Most of the negative early reviews for ‘Straw Dogs’ seem to have one thing in common – each reviewer made up his or her mind prior to seeing it that the movie would be worthless. With a closed mind, anyone familiar with Sam Peckinpah’s original 1971 film will see the remake as an unnecessary homage that brings nothing new to the table. In reality, the new version offers solid proof of how well remakes can work. ‘Straw Dogs’ stays true to the original and opens up the themes and morals to new, younger audiences who most likely won’t even know that it’s a remake.

The only major changes to the narrative of ‘Straw Dogs’ are cosmetic in nature. The film is now set in the United States and our central characters have different professions. James Marsden plays the Dustin Hoffman role as David Sumner, a successful screenwriter working on a new World War II script. Kate Bosworth plays the Susan George role of David’s wife Amy, a small-time television actress.

David and Amy decide to temporarily move from Los Angeles to the small Mississippi town where Amy grew up so that David can focus on his screenplay in the peace and quiet of the South. Because Amy’s deceased father’s house needs some repairs, the two contract Amy’s high school sweetheart Charley (Alexander Skarsgård) and his crew to do the work.

Life in the South is far different than what David is used to, or even what he expected. The town of Blackwater is governed by sheer masculinity. Conflicts are resolved with macho actions, which is worlds different from how David acts. So when Charley begins “coveting his neighbor’s wife,” David approaches the issue like a gentleman, which Charley looks at as a hollow threat that only encourages him.

The social themes of race, class, gender and politics make ‘Straw Dogs’ a truly intriguing film. David’s masculinity is put to the test. He must become something that he’s never been – “a man.” The rich social dynamics of the original film have been studied in great detail and depth in film classes. Surprisingly, the remake loses none of that power.

Carrying the tone of an independent film, ‘Straw Dogs’ comes to a slow boil. As David learns what it means to be a man, his newly-found macho skills are tested. The thrilling final act is where ‘Straw Dogs’ lives up to its marketing. Although the film is constantly tense, not until the climax does it becomes action-oriented like the trailers would have you believe.

Anyone unfamiliar with the original film should be warned of the graphic nature of the film – not only in violence but sexuality. ‘Straw Dogs’ features a lengthy double-rape scene and several gory, highly-detailed deaths.

Any negative preconception you might have of ‘Straw Dogs’ should be tossed out the window. The remake takes a dated classic and makes it new – which is a very good thing considering how unfamiliar most audiences are with the original. For anyone who enjoys good film, don’t miss ‘Straw Dogs’.

Rating: ★★★★½


  1. TJ Kats

    Loved it. I agree that it didn’t play as advertised but I think that is a good thing. I saw it earlier this afternoon so there wasn’t much of a crowd to gauge a reaction from.

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