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With: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsg�rd, James Woods, Dominic Purcell, Rhys Coiro, Billy Lush, Laz Alonso, Willa Holland, Walton Goggins, Anson Mount
Written by: Rod Lurie, based on a screenplay by David Zelag Goodman, and on a novel by Gordon Williams
Directed by: Rod Lurie
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language
Language: with English subtitles
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/16/2011

Straw Dogs (2011)

1 Star (out of 4)

Jumbo Wimp

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie (The Contender, Resurrecting the Champ) unwisely tries to redo Sam Peckinpah with this incendiary tale. In Peckinpah's hands, Straw Dogs (1971) was an intensely psychological thriller about perceived masculinity. The new remake avoids anything psychological -- or even emotional -- and turns it into a rather empty and soulless revenge thriller.

Actress Amy (Kate Bosworth) returns to her small town Mississippi home with her Hollywood screenwriter husband, David Sumner (James Marsden), so he can work on his new script. They hire Amy's former boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard) and his buddies to repair the barn roof, and a series of subtle psychological games begin, designed to make David look foolish and weak. But eventually a deadly incident leads up to a violent standoff, wherein David must take up arms to defend his wife and his home.

This time the characters don't make much sense, and when they change or snap, it seems too sudden, rather than gradual. Now we merely have a thoughtless, empty exploration of "what makes a man," all the way down to a bizarre and ill-advised montage mashup of a deer hunt and a rape scene. But the real point seems to be to see how many gruesome and bloody murders can be crammed into one film. It's vile and pointless. The only saving grace is a terrifying performance by James Woods as a backwoods, alcoholic hillbilly who is pathologically obsessed with defending his daughter's honor.
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