Straw Dogs Reviews
Thoroughly disappointing remake of one of my favourite movies ever made despite its good intentions. The films biggest problems are the highly questionable casting choices combined with some terrible changes to the original.
However I found the backdrop (Deep South) they chose for this to be effective and on par with the original.
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I have to admit that I'm appalled at what passes for horror/suspense nowadays. Straw Dogs is 110 minutes long, and it's divided into 90 minutes of boring exposition to wildly uninteresting characters, and a final 20 minutes of violent scenes that hold no logical or emotional relationship whatsoever to anything that took place in those initial, dull 90 minutes. It's as if the film drives on neutral the entire time, and then suddenly realizes it needs to amp things up so that audience members don't feel like they were robbed of their money (which they were), but the problem is that the sudden spurt of violence at the end is purely random and nonsensical, which means that the boring set-up ends up also being pointless. Even worse, because it's so random, it was difficult at least for me to determine whom to root for, which totally took out any possibility for tension - I didn't care which characters survived and which ones died during the last-minute scuffle.
David (James Marsden) is a preppy Ivy Leaguer who now lives in California with his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth). He works as a screenwriter, and feels like he needs to go somewhere where he can get away and concentrate on his writing. So, Amy decides that they should go to her hometown to get away from the city life. They decide to go for it, but when they arrive, they find that Amy's old house is pretty busted up, so they contact some of Amy's old high school friends to come help fix it. Much awkwardness ensues as a result of David being such a fish out of water in this situation. Things get worse when Amy starts dressing more provocatively than David would want her to, and her old high school friends start staring at her perhaps more creepily than your average red-blooded straight American male normally would.
The synopsis may give you the impression that this is ripe for potential, but the execution is awful. There are dozens upon dozens of wasted opportunities here, thanks in large part to stilted dialogue and an inability to generate tension. We've seen plenty of films before that start off very quietly and eventually implode, but the ones that succeed greatly at that are the ones that know how to handle the ESCALATION of the tension and that guide the film effectively towards its explosive conclusion. Straw Dogs consists entirely of James Marsden looking helplessly jealous, Kate Bosworth failing at using blank stares in a desperate effort to make her character as ambivalent as possible, and the rest of the actors acting as slimy and stereotypically redneck as possible.
There's one moment of fleeting greatness in Straw Dogs that I thought would take the film in a fantastic direction... but it lasts all of five seconds, and is then completely discarded. You see, early on in the film, it's revealed to us that, ever since she moved to California with David, Amy got rid of her Southern accent and started talking like a city girl. So, there's one scene well into the movie in which David and the other guys are in the living room, and Amy suddenly emerges to bring them drinks, and she's suddenly speaking with a Southern accent. Here I was thinking "Finally, there's gonna be an interesting, psychological level to all of this," but the film simply quits exploring that potential theme once the scene ends.
It's not hard to guess that the filmmakers here simply had no idea what event to use in order to motivate the violent showdown that begins when there are about 20 minutes left, considering that they use an event involving two minor characters of the film that somehow (and don't ask me how) connects to the film's central characters. If the showdown at least had some suspense to it, I may have felt more satisfied once the credits started rolling, but no - this consists entirely of characters yelling at each other, throwing things at each other, and finally, getting killed in the most uncreative of ways. I'm shocked to say this, but I found the final showdown to be even more sleep-inducing than the pointless and overlong exposition that we got before it.
Straw Dogs apparently thrives on the fact that people are generally forgetful and have short attention spans. I'm seeing dozens of comments and reviews that talk about how unabashedly violent the movie as a whole is, when in truth, the only unabashed violence comes at the very end, and it feels more like a way of rushing to make sure people walk out of the film "knowing" that they watched something intense and forgetting about all the worthless (and totally unrelated) monotony that came before it. Horror/suspense, my ass.
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