#287: Straw Dogs (2011)

This 2011 retelling of the once-banned, psychological thriller by Sam Peckinpah sees director/writer Rod Lurie move the sinister vengeance tale from Rural England to Redneck America. With this and a few small changes along the way, he fails to bring any life or energy to this utterly pointless remake.

Replacing the heavyweight Dustin Hoffman powerhouse is the lightweight James Marsden (30 Rock, X-Men). Instead of being a geeky mathematician as in the 1971 movie, Marsden plays budding film writer David Sumner, who moves with his minor TV star wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) to her abandoned family home in Mississippi. David thinks the isolated natural landscape will be the perfect place for him to finish his screenplay, but distractions arrive in the form of Amy’s former boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his beer-swilling cronies. Lurking around their decrepit farmhouse home, their incessant goading will eventually push the couple into action.

If you haven’t seen the original film, you’ll no doubt be aware of it’s controversial, quasi-consensual rape scene. Event today, it’s still a striking and uncomfortable sequence, which I’ve always thought was Peckinpah’s sly allegory on marital angst. It crops up here in Lurie’s remake, only minus the contention. Bosworth’s turn as Amy is played as the victim, rather than a provocateur. Less graphic or distasteful, it also speaks for this movie’s main problem – it’s mild, innocuous and forgettable.

Things start to pick up in Straw Dogs final revenge showdown of Brawn vs. Brain. It’s the one point where the feature feels contemporary, with Saw-like acts of brutality involving boiling fat and a nail gun. It would be thrilling, if it hadn’t been so formulaic and telegraphed from the very start (“oh look, there’s a bear trap. Whatever will we use that for?”).

The acting is fine, the direction serviceable, and Larry Groupé’s score chills you in all the right places, but this remake is tedious and old-fashioned from the opening credits. But, then again, was the original film worthy of merit? Nope. Straw Dogs is a futile film experience, twice over.

★★☆☆☆
IMDb it

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