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Straw Dogs (2011)


Stars: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods, Dominic Purcell, Walton Goggins, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland, Rhys Coiro

Director: Rod Lurie

Although the story translates well enough from rural England to the Southern United States, this remake of Sam Peckinpah's iconic 1971 paean to violence seems, with all the original's subtleties ironed out, much less believable than it did back then.

Screenwriter David (Marsden) and his new wife Amy (Bosworth) take a lease on a house in Amy's old home town in Louisiana. David handles the transition to redneck territory badly, but no decision is worse than hiring Amy's ex Charlie (Skarsgard) and his gang to mend the roof of the adjoining barn.

They turn up at the crack of dawn and knock off at midday, while Amy runs around braless in skimpy vests, and strips in front of the hired help. Still seems no reason for them to hang her cat, in this version at least, but anyway they do. Oblivious, David keeps plugging away at his screenplay for Stalingrad (how he can concentrate is anyone's guess) before being lured away on a spurious hunt while Amy is being raped by Charlie and an even nastier mate. Why she opens the door when the danger is pretty obvious is also anybody's guess.

Any road, things come to a head when the local simpleton (Purcell) accidentally chokes the daughter (Holland) of psychotic Woods, then is rescued by Amy and David after they hit him with their car. Amy calls David a coward, but, when a siege ensues, the seemingly mild writer takes a leaf out of his own description of the folk of Stalingrad: 'They beat 'em with innovation and with fortitude they didn't know they had."

This lacks the mounting urgency of the original: here, you just hang around waiting for explosion of violence at the end. Bosworth does her best with the implausible Amy, though she's just as overheated as the rest of characters here.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Sony (Screen Gems). Colour by deluxe.
110 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 29 Oct 2011