When you have a film that has the tagline of, “Everyone has a breaking point” on the poster then you better damn well give us enough character development to make this breaking point worth something. There is nothing I hate more than waiting around for something to happen in a film. Straw Dogs is a remake of a film of the same name that starred Dustin Hoffman and was directed by Sam Peckinpah in 1971. I have not seen the original film, so this review will be met with a fresh set of eyes and no predetermined judgment. Wouldn’t you think a guy like me would be the perfect target for this sort of remake? I haven’t seen the original and I’m all for the simple man taking justice into his own hands, but Straw Dogs is full of so much garbage and wasted time. When the final ending sequence kicks into play the whole film is too far out in the water to be saved.
Hollywood screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his lovely wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) decide to relocate to a little town down in the south. Amy was from this small town that doesn’t like newcomers. There reason for relocating was so that David can have peace and quiet which will allow him to work on his latest piece of writing. Why you couldn’t just rent a cabin or something is beyond me, but if a small town feel is what they wanted then they certainly got it. Instantly upon arrival in the town they are greeted with some old acquaintances of Amy’s. Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) is an old high school friend that had some sparks with Amy back in the day and now he’s mostly bitter. Straw Dogs comes chalked with the usual redneck stereotypes. Everyone in town chews tobacco, drives a Ford pickup truck and has problems with anyone making over $10 grand a year. Charlie and his crew immediately give off some hostile vibes towards David, but David being the fine gentlemen from the cities that he is decides to offer them a roofing job.
The film spends a majority of its time slowing elevating the so called tension between the Sumner’s and practically everyone around them. You have the former high school coach who is now a drunk named Tom Heddon (James Woods), the local mentally handicapped adult that is always innocently getting into troubled named Jeremy (Dominic Purcell) and the returned Iraq veteran now turned sheriff named John Burke (Laz Alonso). I can’t forget to mention that the sheriff is an African American, so this obviously causes problems for the rest of the redneck racist town.
David and Amy have such simple intentions. They want to be alone and live life. Charlie clearly has problems with newcomers, especially big shot Hollywood writers that steal the prettiest girl from the town only to come back and gloat. The tension builds up as Charlie and his crew constantly makes attacks towards David and everything he stands for. Amy continues to poke at David, calling him a coward because he doesn’t confront Charlie and things spiral out of control.
While this is happening the coach’s 15 year old daughter is aggressively flirting with Jeremy, who makes the drunken father upset. Jeremy’s path crosses with David and Amy’s, giving Charlie and the gang an excuse to take some small town “justice” into their own hands. The whole film is laughably bad thanks to the horrible acting by nearly everyone and the generic stereotypes that are just so damn cookie cutter bad.
The whole house revenge part that is shown during the trailers really loses its impact because of the horseshit beginning and middle, which is sad because I really did enjoy the action. It was very bloody and violent and all done in low lighting with practical effects. I liked the homemade weapons and even how David managed to use the house as a weapon of defense. It plays out in a very realistic manner and it’s not as Hollywood as I thought it would be.
But everything prior is just so damn stupid. There is a rape scene that’s not really that important. You’d think rape would be something serious, something to really get the blood boiling and drive the protagonist over the edge, but it’s instead used just to make the audience feel uncomfortable. The rape scene felt completely pointless, it was also used to fuel one of the funniest and definitely awkward flashback clips played later that involve a high school football game intertwined with bits of Amy getting raped, while a mentally handicapped individual is getting some unwanted action from a 15 year old high school girl. It all comes crashing together in such a weird way. I’m not saying rape is funny, but I will say that it kind of felt like they treated it very lightly, by never bringing it up again. It was never used as a means for revenge because David never even found out about it and Amy never told anyone about it.
I’ve been told that the remake changes the whole story with the mentally handicapped person from the original and the novel it was based on. In this adaptation the whole character feels unnecessary and the story that comes from it is so damn ridiculous. The 15 year old high school kid that keeps constantly flirting with the man gets absolutely no punishment. The whole damn town watches as she practically forces her tongue onto Jeremy as he stands there motionless. Why he’d be to blame is beyond me.
The only reason he’s even in the film is to act as the final breaking point for the drunks to come and rally outside David and Amy’s house. Let’s take a look at some previous build ups that didn’t evoke any sort of drastic response from David or Amy. There cat gets murdered and hung in their closet, Charlie and the boys practically drool on Amy as she does her daily jogs, Charlie and the boys setup David on a hunting trip nearly killing him and Amy gets raped! The only thing those previous scenes did for David was cause him to realize Charlie isn’t a nice person and Amy had some emotional damage after the rape, but not enough to LEAVE THE DAMN TOWN or tell David or the police. She bottles in a rape for no reason.
The film does succeed in providing a chain of cool and believable deaths at the end. Watching David get the long awaited revenge was satisfying, but not in terms of wanting to see the douchebag’s finally get there due or the main characters finally getting some revenge. The whole ending was only rewarding because you had to sit through an hour and a half of complete shit. I didn’t care who was getting killed or why, I just wanted to see some damn action.
James Marsden‘s transformation from cowardly writer to dangerous bad ass feels very forced and artificial. It’s never something you start rooting for at the end, it’s only something you enjoy because something is finally happening with the film that doesn’t completely suck.
I don’t recall the last time I felt so cheated at a movie. Straw Dogs is all build up with very little reward. The dialogue is cringe worthy and not one actor or actress can really anchor the film down. Marsden was the worst casting decision of the bunch and Bosworth and Skarsgard just sort of read lines while standing there. Nothing in the first part of the film makes you care for any of the characters at the end.
The whole last act is only fun because you get to see some blood spill. Not once do you feel justice is being served because at this point in the film you simply don’t care. The scarce action is good, but it’s so shallow and empty. Every single character is so idiotic and forgettable. There is absolutely nothing in Straw Dogs that warrants a watch. Even the showdown at the end has been done better before.
Rod Lurie has managed to craft one of the most pointless, dull and generic remakes of all time. As its own the film is complete trash and not redeeming in any form.
Straw Dogs (2011) – 5.5/10