Back in 1971 Director Sam Peckinpah sent shock-waves through the UK when he set his “revenge western” in modern day Cornwall. It’s tale of small town folk, with even smaller minds shocked it’s audience, most notably because of a certain rape scene. Rape in movies is always a controversial issue, but when the victim seems to enjoy what is happening, it’s frowns all round. The movie found itself going down in history as one of the most controversial movies of a generation. Following on from the likes of Last House On The Left, and I Spit On Your Grave, Screen Gems decided it was time for the 40-year-old movie to have a glossy Hollywood make over.
David (James Marsden) and Amy (Kate Bosworth) recent newlyweds retreat to Amy’s childhood home, left to her after the death of her father. For the couple it’s a retreat from their usual life, players in the Hollywood scene. For David in particular the isolation will give him enough time to work on the screenplay for his latest movie. But returning home after many years causes old relationships to re-ignite, and as Amy has developed from teen-cheerleader to beautiful actress while she has been away, her old school friends have been admiring her from afar, now however they get to enjoy her from a much lesser distance. For old flame Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) it’s temptation that’s too hard to put aside, and so begins a game of cat and mouse, that with each round becomes more and more deadly.
While this 21st Century adaptation of the classic movie, is an ok movie; you really have to ask one very big question… Why? It’s the same level of why that many people asked just over ten years ago when Gus Van Sant stuck the knife in Hitchcock’s psycho essentially making a scene by scene remake; now with Straw Dogs we have virtually the same situation, right down to it’s almost identical running time.
To add to the controversy, leading man James Marsden seems to have tried to adopt an identical Dustin Hoffman look (the star of the original) while Kate Bosworth does her best to replicate Susan George. It’s all a little incestuous in its feel to be perfectly honest.
When it comes to the comparisons between this and the original it seems that despite its forty years of age, a fact sure to turn off many a fresh faced young movie fan; little has changed, in fact there is not really one new element bought to the movie beyond the fact that its backdrop has shifted from England to America. Even the rape scene, that made the original such a controversial talking point, has essentially been scene by scene recreated, with similar dialogue, and almost blow by blow “action”.
They say that as a woman hits a certain age she is no longer needed in Hollywood, and there is a certain “how far the mighty have fallen” feel to the presence of one time A-Lister James Woods who it seems over the years has suffered a similar fate, you have to ask twenty years ago would he have even entertained this movie? What he does however is deliver the traditional slightly unhinged performance we have grown to expect from the veteran actor.
Like the original, Straw Dogs is over-long, and at times hollow, it does however deliver action on the same level as the original, and reward the viewers patience with a fairly action packed final thirty minutes, while at the same time delivering a slightly humorous demise to one of the characters, don’t lose sight of that bear-trap.