Straw Dogs Redux: The 2011 Remake
September 23, 2011 1 Comment
Spoilers for this and the 1971 film follow. Read at your own risk!
Back in 1971 a film called STRAW DOGS created quite a stir with its portrayal of excessive violence, and director Sam Peckinpah was practically vilified for an extended and somewhat ambiguous rape sequence involving the lead character’s wife and her attackers.
It is perhaps a sad commentary that the dramatization of over-the-top violence and sexual assault now seem commonplace in film, suggesting that the vast majority of audiences are nonplussed by practically everything presented onscreen.
Today’s jaded audience may be why director of the 2011 remake Rod Lurie chose to eliminate the ambiguity in the rape scene and concentrate almost entirely on the violence in his adaptation of the film. Although a decent enough summer movie in its own right, this DOGS, starring James Marsden (X-Men, Superman Returns) as David Sumner, Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns, Wonderland) as his wife Amy, and Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) as Charlie, offers little in the way of surprises for audiences.
The story here is virtually the same as the original film, with only the backwater location and a few small details changed, and basically portrays how far a man who believes himself to be a pacifist will go to protect his home and family. Unfortunately, the director chooses to telegraph most of the plot developments from miles away early on, and some of the most important ones seem a little rushed or glossed over once they do finally arrive. Any exploration of how the potential for extreme violence exists in some deep, dark place inside all of us seems politely forgotten, and David’s radical defense of his home and wife seems far more justified this version, with all references to the consequence of such extreme primal behavior excised (including the deletion of the original’s compelling final line of dialogue).
Much like the movie SAW, which is even referenced by one of the characters mid-movie, this film revels in the planning and execution of numerous violent deaths far more than in revealing any psychological motivations behind its characters’ actions. More often than not the director has his actors just directly tell us what they are thinking instead of letting their actions show us, which seems more than a little condescending. And oddly, when you’d prefer to hear some explanations, the characters remain mute.
The verdict? You will enjoy this remake of STRAW DOGS far more if you haven’t seen the original. This one has plenty of eye candy for both sexes, and all of the actors do a serviceable job. Though perhaps not a shot-for-shot redo, the plot is virtually identical, so expect no surprises if you’ve seen the first film. And although the remake is not a bad film, the first movie is far more tense, scarier, and thought provoking, and definitely worth repeated viewings. 2011’s DOGS is fine for a Saturday afternoon flick, but could never be called a memorable psychological thriller.