Article first published as Movie Review: Straw Dogs on Blogcritics.
Straw Dogs was directed by Rod Lurie, known for the Contender (2000). He is an ex Los Angeles film critic who took on quite a challenge directing a remake of the original Straw Dogs from 1971 which starred Dustin Hoffman. Surfing around the web I found this remake has similar controversy to the Cape Fear movies: volatile opinions exist.
I believe any remake will have its detractors and Straw Dogs appears to have its fair share. While I enjoyed some aspects of the movie I found the script unrealistic and the characters under-developed. Had those two features been enhanced, it could have been a great remake.
The film centers on LA screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth). They have just inherited a large house way out in the boonies of the deep South since Amy’s father’s passing. They decide to spend some time there in the town where Amy grew up so David can work on his most recent movie script presumably away from the noise of the city. Amy’s high school flame Charlie (Alexander SkarsgÃ¥rd) comes on to her right away and there is a tension there that hints at trouble. Charlie works with a group of ruffians that have long since graduated from high school but still cowtow to the coach Tom Heddon (James Woods) with regards to drinking games in the local saloon and other important facets of their small lives.
We learn very little about these washed-up football players. When they commit horrible acts we have no idea why. This is due to plain and simple shallow character development. There is something going on with the coach’s daughter and that makes for a side story that I won’t get into here. Suffice it to say it is once again, shallow character development and weak screenwriting. The premise of the movie is that ex-high school football stars in a small town often become feared villains. This group, defined by David Sumner as “Straw Dogs,” are in no way cute or interesting. They are savages and their criminal behavior wreaks havoc until the final scene.
I found the plot very predictable. Something done with a bear trap piqued my interest just minutes before the credits rolled. Too bad that was the only high moment for me. Perhaps it should have happened an hour earlier and I would have liked this film more. If the writing were better along with the character development of both the straw dogs and the other characters, it could have been an awesome new concept of a classic. As it is, this remake “drops the ball” in more ways than one.