Sunday, April 8, 2012

Straw Dogs - DVD Review

Starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods, Dominic Purcell, Rhys Coiro, Billy Lush, Laz Alonzo, Walton Goggins, Drew Powell and Anson Mount.  Directed by Rod Lurie.


When Rod Lurie moved the setting of this remake from England to Mississippi, I was pretty sure what his intentions were. Our blue-state prtagonist is about to wander into red-state hell.

This remake is faithful to the beats of the original 1971 Sam Peckinpah classic, with fish-out-of-water David (James Marsden) accompanying his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) back to her hometown for the summer. There she runs into ex-boyfriend Charlie (True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard) and his crew, and eager to please the locals, David hires Charlie's crew to fix up their barn.

From there we get a slow build of rising tension, with Charlie and co. passive-aggressively poking at David, testing him, and David holds to his pacifist ideals. Amy wants David to stand up to them; it's the Southern way. David just rubs the rednecks wrong. He drives a Jaguar, he doesn't like football, he goes to their church but then walks out on the pastor's sermon because he doesn't really believe in God.  Never mind these alleged Christians will shortly be engaging in rape and murder.

The rape scene isn't handled as ambiguously this time around. In the original, Amy seemed to like the rape on some level (at least before the second guy joined in). Here it's very clear that while Amy's been encouraging attention to get back at David, this was not what she wanted or bargained for.

The final half-hour is where everything must come to a head in a violent showdown, and here David lowers himself to their level, as that's the only level where he'll be able to stay alive. The third act is well done, full of suspense and tension.

By the way, even though it's supposed to take place in present day, other than a couple modern references (like cellphones), it more often felt like it was stuck in the 1970's.

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