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Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs: Suspense-less Thriller Remake

  • Alexander SkarsgårdJames Marsden...
  • Thriller
  • Rod Lurie
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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Straw Dogs: Suspense-less Thriller Remake

David (Marsden) and Amy (Bosworth) move into her childhood home, which
is now vacant and slightly damaged after Hurricane Katrina, for a couple of
weeks to work on a film script. Amy’s hometown is the kind where everyone knows
each other and the biggest event is the high-school football games. David hires
a bunch of locals to repair the house’s roof, one of whom, Charlie (Skarsgard),
turns out to be Amy’s ex, who still has a thing for her. The workers belittle
David’s Harvard ways and look down on him as a lesser man. They actively seek
out opportunities to intimidate David and harass Amy, turning their creative
getaway into a living nightmare.

Straw Dogs
focuses mainly on the culture clash between David, the Hollywood screenwriter,
and the workers. Marsden plays the upper class David, who finds himself being
measured by a completely different standard of masculinity than the one he
personally endorses. He represents cerebral masculinity while Skarsgard’s
Charlie represents the physical. David is self-absorbed and doesn’t have the
slightest clue how to deal with the culture shock, which makes it very easy,
not to mention highly satisfying, for Charlie and his gang of rednecks to
exploit his insecurities and naivety.

As time goes on, David’s utter failure to prove that he has a backbone
inspires the workers to take their intimidation games to the next level. They
abandon David on a hunting trip, in which they attempt to shoot him, go round
to his house and rape Amy. This scene is supposed to be the film’s
turning point where it descends from bullying to outright sadism, but it is barely
coherent due to the rapid editing that flits back and forth between Amy being
raped, David hunting and various shots of their surroundings. After their
various ordeals, the two decide to tough it out, refusing to be driven out of
their own home, culminating in a brutal half-hour attack by Charlie and his
gang on their house, where people are killed using shotguns, bear traps, nail
guns and golf clubs.    

Compared to Sam Pekinpah’s controversial 1971 original
starring Dustin Hoffman in the lead role, Straw Dogs’ lack of suspense drags it down immensely. From the moment Amy and David
roll into town in their convertible Jaguar until right before the big house
attack, the stakes stay around pretty much the same level and the escalation of
danger isn’t nearly pronounced enough. Alexander Skarsgard is the film’s high
point, imbuing his calm, graceful demeanour with a chilling intensity that
becomes more pronounced the more he sees of Amy. He is the most unsettling
thing about this film.

As far as thrillers go, this one won’t have you on the edge of your
seat. However, if bloody, horrific murders are your thing, the final showdown
is epically gruesome and nerve-wracking. 

Like This? Try

Straw Dogs (1971), A History of Violence, Panic Room

360 Tip

Although this is a faitly faithful remake of the 1971 original,  David's occupation has been changed to screenwriter from mathematician, and the setting has been changed to Mississippi from Cornwall, England.

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