Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Straw Dogs

It’s a good thing the famously embattled Sam Peckinpah is not alive to witness Rod Lurie’s wholly unnecessary remake of his 1971 Straw Dogs. It is not so much a remake as a desecration, stripped of Peckinpah’s literary themes and wallowing in redneck stereotypes. Peckinpah’s artfully choreographed violence, considered alarming in 1971, is transformed for the benumbed post-Saw audience into standard horror-film shock.

Peckinpah’s mathematician, David (James Marsden) is in this incarnation a screenwriter, married to comely actress Amy (Kate Bosworth), and the Cornwall village where the couple retreat becomes the most odious Southern backwater this side of Deliverance, populated by gun-toting primitives, including Amy’s ex-boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard), who covet Amy and detest David and his effete, Jaguar-driving Hollywood ways. Setting aside the film’s many absurdities (among them a ridiculously handsome half-wit and James Woods as a belligerent coach), whereas Peckinpah explored the conflict between science and religion and the irrelevancy of intellectualism in a primitive world, Lurie’s theme is tritely political, centering on the divide between liberals and God-and-guns Southern rustics.

In thrall to the thing he is defiling, ex-critic Lurie faithfully apes the original – the hanged cat, the rape, the apocalyptic bloodbath – but without style, artistry or significance. Pamela Zoslov

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