Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie, David Zelag Goodman
Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard
Straw Dogs is a remake of an earlier, 1971, Sam Peckinpah film starring Dustin Hoffman. Not having watched the earlier film, I went into this showing with virgin eyes.
The story is set in a small Southern town where the high school football players are gods, and everyone in town goes to the game on Friday night. Amy (Kate Bosworth) had the bus schedule out of town memorized before her high school graduation. Now a famous TV star, she is back in town with her screenwriter husband David Sumner (James Marsden). Amy did not want to come back, but only did so because her deceased father’s home suffered damage in the last hurricane, and her husband wanted a quiet place to finish his latest script.
Things go from bad to worse as David meets Amy’s old boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), who he contracts to repair the barn. David is a weak man who claims to not get involved based on some higher principle but really is just avoiding conflict even when he knows something is wrong. As Charlie and his construction crew get more aggressive toward David and covetous of his wife, things spin more and more out of control. Eventually everything comes to a head, and everyone has blood on their hands.
Overall there is something off about the film. I find the impetus for David fighting for his life & convictions not to be genuine. I would have liked it more if it was based just on fear & self preservation, and not the defense of a minor character. The story starts off well enough, but too quickly comes off the tracks.
The acting on the other hand is really good, especially Alexander Skarsgard and Kate Bosworth. James Marsden is not a small man, but Skarsgard makes him look small and nebbish–this is also a compliment to Marsden. Skarsgard has the right amount of menace and doubt–doubt about what he is doing and has done. Bosworth is equally good. Her performance with Marsden after her attack by Skarsgard and his compatriot is spot on and totally believable.
Straw Dogs is not going to win any awards, but it does convey a sense of menace. You don’t necessarily have to watch it on the big screen, but definitely watch it in the dark.