Movie Review: Straw Dogs (2011)

In 2011, director Rod Lurie (The Contender) helmed a remake of Straw Dogs, the controversial and violent 1971 film from Sam Peckinpah. The film stars James Marsden (X-Men, The Loft) and Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns, Blue Crush) as David and Amy Sumner, a couple that has just moved to a rural Mississippi town where Amy grew up as a child. David is a screenwriter and hopes that the new location will be a relaxing environment for him to work as he tries to write a new script.

But things turn for the worse when David hires Charlie, played by Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood, The Legend of Tarzan), to fix the roof on their property. Charlie is also the ex-boyfriend of Amy and he, along with his buddies, start to make life uncomfortable for the couple. But before they can rid themselves of Charlie and his crew, Amy is raped and David is almost killed in a hunting trip with the guys. After they find their cat hanging in a closet, they ask Charlie to leave and he does. But when another incident takes place, their paths cross again and it leads to a violent ending that pits the two sides against each other in a fight for survival.

Marsden and Bosworth are great in their roles as David and Amy. Marsden is perfect as a man entering a world that he has no idea about and Bosworth is good as well as the woman who knows how this small town works and tries to ease her husband in. But even she didn’t know how bad returning to her hometown would be. And Skarsgard is really good as Charlie, a man seemingly conflicted by his actions at times, but ultimately doing only what he wants to do. He is stuck in his past and only knows the life he has experienced in that same small town.

But the movie is assisted greatly by the supporting cast. In Charlie’s group, Rhys Coiro (Entourage) and Drew Powell (Gotham) play Norman and Bic and are fantastic as the creepy, Southern guys who act as if they rule the small town they live in. Another resident of the town, mostly just called Coach, is played by James Woods (Casino). Woods is great as the crazy and always drunk former football coach of the local high school. He plays this role wonderfully and he definitely a highlight of the movie. And filling out the cast is Dominic Purcell (Prison Break), Willa Holland (Arrow), Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) and Anson Mount (Safe).

Remakes usually receive a lot of backlash and are judged harshly against the original and Straw Dogs was no different. It was received very poorly when released and the reviews I read were mostly negative. Personally, I thought the film was made very well and the acting was tremendous. Peckinpah was known for his violent films and I thought this remake lived up to the violent nature of the original. And let’s not forget that even the original was based on a novel titled The Seige of Trencher’s Farm, written by Gordan Williams.

The only changes I really noticed were the setting and the main character’s profession. Instead of a mathematician, David is a screenwriter in this version. Not a big deal in my eyes and only helps to update the story to something better known in today’s world. And instead of moving to London, the couple move to a small Mississippi town and I thought the setting really worked. American audiences could surely relate to this setting more. And the stereotypical small town attitudes worked great in the movie. The setting is that town that is run by high school football players and coaches, past and present. So why couldn’t these guys think they can get away with what they want. Between the setting and the acting, Straw Dogs is surely one remake that I think people should give a chance.

Daryl Karpinski, Jr.