Straw Dogs Review
By Bret Dorman
Hey remember that movie that had an uncomfortable rape scene that was also ambiguous about whether or not the girl actually kind of liked it and also had a scenes of violence that were ambiguous about whether or not violence is part of man’s nature?
It was called Straw Dogs and it was pretty controversial not just because of it’s sex and violence, but what it was ambiguously saying about them.
If that sounds slightly offensive and tough to watch, don’t worry, there’s a remake that changes all the grey areas and makes a pretty black and white film about a good guy fighting bad people.
The Story: David and Amy (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth) move back to Amy’s hometown in the deep south. There they have various interactions with Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) and his gang. Some of those interactions include roof fixing, awkward conversations about social differences between L.A. and the deep south, rape, and violent murder. Also, the people in the south REALLY love their football.
So I realize remakes are going to be different than the originals. That’s fine. I say go for it! Do it up! But what I don’t like is taking a film from the 70’s and just dumbing it down for modern audiences. Part of the ‘charm’ of Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs is that you can feel Peckinpah’s drunken masculinity and how he ‘secretly’ views women in the film. It’s a personal film from a good filmmaker who isn’t necessarily a good person.
Then you have this movie. Which desperately injects ‘adrenaline moments’ like dangerous car pranks, hunting mishaps, and football into the story that are obviously meant to keep people interested. You know what would be interesting? Actual character development and conversations that amount to more than just vaguely talking about what’s happening.
In the end this movie is a big buildup to the home invasion scene. Everything that has transpired up to this point is to gently ‘push’ James Marsden ‘over the edge’ and show that normal people can be violent too! But instead of the audience questioning the violence, Straw Dogs turns into normal violent gore ‘isn’t this cool’ territory. Yeah, seeing characters on screen die in (somewhat) gruesome ways is cool. Never did I feel like the movie asked me to question this. It’s just a good guy protecting his home against bad men. The end.
The violence is good though and there are some nice moments between David and Amy. The movie isn’t incompetent, it just is confusing why this movie was chosen to be remade into a standard teen horror film when it had a lot more potential.
Finally, I want to say that when I watch a movie, I just naturally assume that people are around my height (5’11) unless I’m given reason to believe otherwise. Clint Eastwood, Arnold ‘The Action God Himself’ Schwarzenegger, and Liam Neeson are obviously like, 8 feet tall just based on reputation and coolness. I realize every once in a while someone is actually shorter than me which blows my mind, like Tom Cruise and Sylvester Stallone.
Well in this movie I assumed James Woods (who plays a stupid drunk guy who is stupid and drunk all the time) was my height. I’m not a huge James Woods fan but I recognize the overall reputation he has so he fits into the ‘assumed to be my height’ category. He shares some scenes with James Marsden who is taller than him in this movie. But that makes sense because James Marsden was Cyclops, so naturally he would be taller than me. Then, Marsden shares some scenes with Skarsgard, who TOWERS over him like Marsden is some minor mutant hero, not one of the main X-Men. So naturally I assume Skarsgard is like, 8 feet tall, because he looks to be at least 1 full foot taller than Marsden.I guess what I am trying to say is Skarsgard is a freaking intimidating scary giant who could probably rip a tree out of the ground and use it like a baseball bat. Just wondering why that wasn’t incorporated more…
(For the record, Woods is 6′ on the dot. Marsden is actually 5’10. The reason why Marsden may look taller than Woods is because Woods is always slouching and leaning and acting drunk. Skarsgard is only 6’4, not 8 feet tall…)
In Conclusion, Straw Dogs is a good movie if you never have seen the original. It’s a little watered down and amped up for modern audiences who will love the violence unquestioningly. For me, I thought it was okay but could have been something much more.
Final Grade: C-