Lurie’s ‘Straw Dogs’ finds its own way

Posted by · 4:48 pm · September 14th, 2011

I should really write something about Rod Lurie’s “Straw Dogs” remake, which, naturally, has been met with a lot of skepticism ever since it was announced. “How dare someone tinker with Peckinpah,” etc. As if Peckinpah is beyond reproach. He’s not, I’d argue, and Lurie’s version of the novel that Peckinpah’s film was based upon — Gordon Williams’s “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm” — works in ways that film didn’t really want to.

The film features some dynamic acting from James Marsden and particularly Alexander Skarsgård (recognizable to most from TV’s “True Blood”). Marsden finds a lot of interesting rhythms in the re-purposed Dustin Hoffman role, this time set as screenwriter David Sumner, who heads off with his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), to her bayou hometown for a change of pace and scenery. And he carries the overall theme of the film well: fighting for one’s principles (which, interestingly enough, is a recurrent theme in Lurie’s work going way back).

But Skarsgård is extra creepy as the beefcake brute from Amy’s past, a former beau with a dose of obsession in his veins, and the slow boil that ultimately erupts in the story’s famed rape scene has a particularly unsettling trajectory. What lurks beneath the surface all along is well handled but never inaccessible.

Basically I’m saying Lurie walks a delicate line here and pulls off an interesting directorial departure. I still prefer his work on “The Contender” and “Nothing But the Truth,” but I always like to see filmmakers stretching and this was a smart step away from his usual strut.

Anyway, as mentioned, top marks for Skarsgård and Marsden. Bosworth almost internalizes too much here because the characterization is kind of vague, but then again, that kind of works for the character here and there. Also worth mentioning is James Woods, who chews the scenery as a hothead drunken former football coach who kick-starts the film’s bloody climax.

It doesn’t want to be your father’s “Straw Dogs” because the audience it’s aiming for, well, isn’t your father. But it’s well-played genre and a good post-summer piece of commercial cinema.

“Straw Dogs” opens nationwide this Friday.

[Photo: Screen Gems]

→ 18 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily · Reviews

18 responses so far

  • 1 9-14-2011 at 4:54 pm

    Will said...

    Glad to hear it. Complaining about remakes has become the most tedious trend in modern film conversation.

  • 2 9-14-2011 at 5:07 pm

    /3rtfull said...

    No complaining about the use of Teal and Orange is.

  • 3 9-14-2011 at 5:58 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    Marsden is vastly underrated, so it’s good to know that he shines in this film. RT hasn’t been too kind to the remake so far, but I’m interested to see it nonetheless. Sidenote, it’s either this film or the SJP one… so no tough call here.

  • 4 9-14-2011 at 6:00 pm

    /3rtfull said...

    What about seeing Drive? It opens Friday.

  • 5 9-14-2011 at 6:44 pm

    Chase Kahn said...

    This has “Last House on the Left” written all over it.

  • 6 9-14-2011 at 7:49 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    But more importantly, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” opens this weekend.

  • 7 9-14-2011 at 10:24 pm

    James said...

    Marsden doesn’t have a Hoffman quality about himself. Though I’m not saying he’s nearly as talented.

  • 8 9-14-2011 at 11:20 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    @/3rtfull- I’ve already seen it, so I’m opting to see something else on Friday. Slim pickings this weekend!

  • 9 9-15-2011 at 1:16 am

    Rashad said...

    I hope he isn’t nearly the wuss Hoffman was previously.

    Still, it’s Drive this weekend

  • 10 9-15-2011 at 2:11 am

    Glenn said...

    I was never crying foul over this remake because, well, I don’t like the original.

  • 11 9-15-2011 at 4:44 am

    Graysmith said...

    I’m with Gleen. I never particularly cared for the original film.. Although I cry foul about all remakes because they’re pretty much always pointless and a sign of creative death.

  • 12 9-15-2011 at 5:38 am

    ninja said...

    Very happy to hear positives about ASkaars. He is terrific on True Blood and I`m not surprised that he continues so here and in Melancholia. I hope he has a good, long career.

  • 13 9-15-2011 at 8:40 am

    Drew said...

    Not to get to off-topic, Kris, but did you happen to catch the notorious 8 minutes of footage that played before the film, or were you not lucky enough to see the much talked about sneek?

  • 14 9-15-2011 at 8:55 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    No I saw this a LONG time ago. And, honestly, I don’t really care much about a sizzle reel. *shrug*

  • 15 9-15-2011 at 1:42 pm

    Dana Jones said...

    @Graysmith- Hey now, ‘Let Me In’ was one of my favorites!

  • 16 9-15-2011 at 3:28 pm

    Fitz said...

    I was never fond of Peckinpah’s original. It glorified everything that Hoffman’s character hated about the bastards trying to kill him. Didn’t Peckinpah think he shifted courses in showing David reveling in killing them all.

  • 17 9-16-2011 at 11:46 pm

    Teddy said...

    For what it’s worth, I believe Lurie has said that his film is a remake of the original FILM specifically and that he didn’t even look at the novel.