‘Straw Dogs’ remake moves forward, some feel the need to bitch about it

Posted by · 11:43 am · April 23rd, 2009

James MarsdenIt seems the knee-jerk reaction to director Rod Lurie’s decision to remake the Sam Peckinpah film “Straw Dogs” is just as you’d expect.  Certain outlets see red and use their web space to bitch about the necessity of such a film.  The Playlist and Rope of Silicon have rants up about it, if you want to wallow in the views of a couple of guys who have apparently conditioned themselves to call foul at the gall of a move like this.

Thing is, Lurie is more than aware of the predicament he’s putting himself in by moving forward on this project.  Though it cracks me up that the film is being held on high as a gem of cinema not to be tampered with.  But some of these folks don’t seem to get what Lurie is going for with this film.  How could they?  They haven’t bothered to pick up a phone or get the goods on his view of things.  Take this aside from the former:

The whitebread milquetoast of James Marsden playing Dustin Hoffman, in a remake of a controversial and acidic Sam Peckinpah classic about wimps and the savage nature of man? Sacrilege!

The last time I talked to Lurie about this project, he said he was remaking “Straw Dogs,” not Sam Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.”  Lurie wasn’t raised like Sam Peckinpah and he doesn’t have the same outlook on life as Sam Peckinpah.  He also never intended for his David Sumner to be a Jewish mathematician (though I think there’s plenty “wimp” stuff to go around with a silver spoon type).  He wants to investigate how the events of this narrative would affect a different set, hence the casting of the “whitebread” Marsden and the role change to a Hollywood screenwriter.

Bottom line, I’m glad Lurie’s doing what he wants to do.  In this age of remakes aimed at cashing in, I think it’s safe to say reworking a 38-year-old thriller that no one particularly loved when it was released is nothing if not a passion project, so good on him for doing what he wants to do.

For more even-handed viewpoints: Devin Faraci has an interesting take on how to change up the events of the narrative at CHUD, while Jeff Wells writes that Marsden’s casting means Lurie “naturally doesn’t want his film to be compared too precisely” to the original.  But I think the reasoning is much more thoughtful than that.

(P.S.: I’m more than aware of my own tendency to knock films or ideas in advance based on my own views and opinions.  This one just rubbed me wrong this morning, so I had to be a hypocrite for a spell.)

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14 responses so far

  • 1 4-23-2009 at 12:41 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    I really don’t understand putting movies like Straw Dogs on such a pedestal. It was nothing more than a pretentious exploitation flick (if there is such a thing) and the only reason why anyone should be offended by this news is the audacity to “reimagine” such a trashy film that would have never been held in high esteem had it not been for the cult following that Sam Peckinpah had acquired.

    This is exactly like all those people who cried out for blood when The Last House on the Left was being remade; as if the original was such a masterpiece that NO ONE could touch it.

    Having said that, Rod Lurie has never directed or produced anything worthwhile, so I doubt I’ll be seeing this film.

  • 2 4-23-2009 at 1:01 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I don’t see how you can relegate “The Contender” and “Nothing But the Truth” to the “not worthwhile” bin. Not your cup of tea, maybe, but come on, he’s not just slapping things together that make no sense and have nothing to say.

  • 3 4-23-2009 at 1:22 pm

    rosengje said...

    I agree with your tendency to be skeptical of those bashing the casting choice for no apparent reason. But… aren’t you friends with Lurie? Doesn’t that have at least a comparable impact on your tendency to defend the decision that the listed individuals have to defend the original?

  • 4 4-23-2009 at 2:05 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “Doesn’t that have at least a comparable impact on your tendency to defend the decision that the listed individuals have to defend the original?”

    That’s gonna need some unpacking, but I think I get what you’re saying. And yeah, I’m friendly with Lurie, but that doesn’t change the facts. Don’t bash something unless you at the very least understand the reasoning behind it.

  • 5 4-23-2009 at 2:59 pm

    The InSneider said...

    I’m not 100% against the idea of a Straw Dogs remake but Kris, you’d think after what Lurie got out of Kate Beckinsale of all people on NBTT, he’d be able to land a better actor than Marsden. Maybe he’ll repeat the trick but there are SO MANY actors out there who would’ve been a better fit, beginning with Lurie’s own NBTT star David Schwimmer. I just don’t see what Marsden brings to the table. He’s not a star. He can’t open a movie. They should’ve gone with Liev Schreiber or someone like him, someone who has exhibited an actual flash of formidable talent. I like Marsden just fine, but I think he’s out of his league here. Unless Lurie takes Devin’s idea, in which case, the casting would be a bold stroke of genius.

  • 6 4-23-2009 at 3:11 pm

    Brian said...

    Lurie is such a genuine fellow, and Straw Dogs 2.0 is hardly going to be a massive hit, so his intentions can really only be pure.

    I like Marsden a lot. Granted, I think he’s SO much better at comedy than drama, but his all-American demeanor could be really ideal for this vision. I’m down.

    I think the casting of the wife is the much more challenging/interesting role.

  • 7 4-23-2009 at 3:37 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    InSneider: I’m not that convinced Marsden is such a “bad” actor. I’ve liked him in pretty much everything he’s done. He hasn’t stretched himself much, granted, but here’s the opportunity, right? And aren’t you a big fan of Richard Kelly? Similar moaning about Marsden in “The Box?”

  • 8 4-23-2009 at 4:52 pm

    evan said...

    Apparently I’m in the minority, but I consider “Straw Dogs” to be a sort of small masterpiece and think it’s one of Peckinpah’s best. So with that, paired with a strong dislike for James Marsden and a lukewarm feeling towards Lurie, I really don’t think this film will be any good, especially when compared to the original. Bottom line: I think I have every right and reason to bitch about it. And yes, I can respect Lurie for the fact that this is a passion project and he’s really putting himself out there, but that still doesn’t mean the film’s going to be any good. If you’re not a fan of the original, and you really like Marsden and Lurie, obviously you’re going to see this remake in a different light, but no need to bash the other side.

  • 9 4-23-2009 at 6:49 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “but that still doesn’t mean the film’s going to be any good.”

    It doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad either. Cuts both ways.

  • 10 4-23-2009 at 6:50 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    And yeah, I’ll bash the other side when all the reaction is is knee jerk and betrays an ignorance of Lurie’s intentions, which those two articles clearly do.

  • 11 4-23-2009 at 10:11 pm

    evan said...

    “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be bad either. Cuts both ways.”

    Well yeah, obviously it’s all speculation. My point was simply that Lurie’s passion for this project still doesn’t make the project a good idea.

    As for the bashing, you claim that ALL the reaction is “knee jerk,” which is what I’m complaining about. Some of us aren’t ignorant of Lurie’s intentions, but still think the project is a bad idea for reasons I stated above. I’m not defending those articles you cited, I’m saying don’t group everyone opposed to the film with them.

    gah, I apologize for the nitpicking, maybe it’s just the way I read the article this morning, but I took offense to it. I must be a little irritable today because usually I’d never react to a random internet article with a response like this.

  • 12 4-23-2009 at 10:19 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I didn’t say “everyone” evan. It says “some” right there in the title.

  • 13 4-24-2009 at 2:08 am

    Glenn said...

    Evan, “Straw Dogs” is actually seen as a masterpiece by many. Not sure why though. It’s nothing more than a gussied up “I Spit On Your Grave” with a drop dead awful performance from Susan George.

  • 14 4-27-2009 at 10:31 am

    entertainmenttoday.. said...

    Im a Lurie fan as I loved The Castle. His work is good and he’s an interesting voice.