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Straw Dogs

Year: 2011
Production Co: Screen Gems
Director: Rod Lurie
Writer: Rod Lurie
Cast: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, James Woods

The biggest change one could have expected from this remake is the pivotal assault scene. Critics and observers (rightly) gave the original film a mauling for Peckinpah's apparent assertion that Amy (Susan George) asked for and enjoyed what happened to her – something I wouldn't put past Peckinpah's machismo view of women.

No such moral wrong footedness exists here and it becomes a straight revenge story. It also takes the usual dim Hollywood view of Southerners as hard drinking, savage rednecks I'm sure many from the region resent.

Screenwriter David (Marsden) accompanies his hot actress wife Amy (Bosworth) to her backwater hometown for a few weeks off to work and let her reacquaint herself with her old roots.

At first David goes out of his way to be nice to the prickly, passive-aggressive locals – particularly Amy's old boyfriend Charlie (Skarsgård, simmering with menace), to the point he employs Charlie and his crew to fix a roof on the property.

But the script sets them up with a series of actions that are too clever for David to get outwardly mad at but tip the balance of power increasingly away from him.

Unlike in most movies were the protagonist is a stand in for the audience, acting as we like to think we would, David is a more passive, almost simpering version of who we all like to think we are, and the longer he refuses to directly confront Charlie and his friends' behaviour, the more frustrating it gets. But it's setting up the theme of the movie – how far a man will go before he breaks.

Things turn serious when Charlie and one his pals break in and rape Amy, having tricked David to wander around the countryside on a bogus hunting trip.

More frustratingly still, even that's not the catalyst for David's breaking point. That comes courtesy of a harmless but mentally ill guy who lives in town, cruel manipulation by a teenage girl he likes, and her boozy, violent father the former school football coach (Woods).

After waiting for the movie to dish out the comeuppance everyone deserves, the climax is satisfyingly violent – some of the carnage so extreme in fact it belongs in a horror movie. But a lot like Gus van Sant's Psycho remake and John Moore's Omen remake, it's pretty redundant.

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