Grae Drake
Straw Dogs Review

Grae's Rating:


Satisfies your bloodlust but not your brain.

Imagine a movie that is so incredibly uncomfortable to watch that no matter how many years pass, you can never fully shake how creepy it made you feel. You flat-out refuse to put yourself through that again, so you don't revisit it, regardless of how Criterion released a special edition of it on DVD. That was my experience watching the 1971 version of Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman, and of course Hollywood has made me go back on my promise. I sat through the remake and was relieved to find that it is a mere shadow of the original, keeping with the uncomfortable themes but replacing anything really interesting with unconvincing, formulaic images.

David (James Marsden) and Amy (Kate Bosworth) are two Hollywood types that return to where Amy was born in the deep South to "get away for awhile." The plan is for David to write his screenplay about Stalingrad, a World War II battle where Soviets held on against all odds against Hitler. Amy's plan is apparently to go jogging without a bra or shoes on and then get angry when men stare at her. Her ex-flame Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) and his buddies dislike David immensely, and tensions rise in a series of frustrating events until finally things reach a fever pitch. Cue gunfire and explosions, questions of morality, and a battle to the death.

The point of the movie is not to be subtle or politically correct. In this, writer/director Rod Lurie succeeds. The storyline raises a lot of highly debatable questions--how do you handle conflict with dangerous people, how do we define masculinity, what constitutes rape, and when do you mention to construction workers that your kitty cat has hung itself in your bedroom closet. Most of the cast are forced to paint with very broad strokes, although Skarsgard makes the most valiant effort in adding some kind of depth to his character (from his role on True Blood, he is used to glamoring us with his eyes). The simplistic characters were my biggest problem with the film, because every person in Blackwater is a terrible stereotype. There is not one likable person in this town--they're all rude, judgmental, deceptive, and out to getcha. David and Amy are conceited liberals from the big city, throwing their money around and being passive aggressive. I found myself waiting for the killing to begin just so I wouldn't have to watch Amy pout anymore.

Here's the big caveat: If you love revenge films, you will like this movie. You won't care that the hicks are popping beers every three minutes, or that the wussy screenwriter doesn't believe in God. You will spend a lot of time seeing unreasonable behavior that builds and builds for an entire film, only to come crashing down in a wildly violent, bloody finale. I feel like the audience was asleep the entire time until five minutes from the end, they woke up with a screech and a jump. If that's what you want to see, then you'll like this movie. Please keep in mind, however, that everything good from this film came directly from the original, so that's worth a look too.


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