Reviewing Straw Dogs

The 1971 Sam Peckinpah original version of Straw Dogs is viewed by film buffs as a classic, primarily for Peckinpah’s skill at examining the psychology of violence. The 2001 remake of Straw Dog, directed and co-written by Rod Lurie, keeps true to the basic plot and premise, but does not live up to the complexity of the original. The new Straw Dog does work, however, as a straightforward modern thriller.

Straw Dogs Blu-Ray cover

Straw Dogs Blu-Ray cover

The setting of the original movie was in rural England. Perhaps to capitalize on co-star Alexander Skarsgard’s recent success playing a vampire in HBO’s True Blood, Lurie’s Straw Dog shares the same setting as the television series: the deep South. Skarsgard plays Charlie, a former high school football star who still hangs about with members of his old team. James Woods gives a stellar performance as the gang’s former coach, an alcoholic who still influences his former team.

James Marsden and Kate Bosworth play David and Amy, a screenwriter and his wife who move back to Amy’s old neighborhood in search of peace and quiet. David hires Charlie and chums to work on the roof of his house, and as Charlie and Amy were once an item, it’s seems doubtful that peace and quiet are in the cards. All doubt is removed when David agrees to go hunting with Charlie and his friends.

Released almost 40 years to the day after the original Straw Dog, Lurie’s Straw Dog attempts to pay homage to the original Straw Dog by including some of the original dialogue, props and even a few of Peckinpah’s then-groundbreaking camera angles. Unfortunately, the remake does not recreate the nuanced performances that were a major reason for the original film’s success. Lurie’s Straw Dogs does succeed as a revenge thriller, inexorably building suspense towards the film’s violent conclusion. The film is most likely to be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with the original Straw Dog, moviegoers who can view the film on its own merits.

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