Screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) relocates with his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), to her Mississippi hometown, but as detachment strains their marriage, bigger threats loom in their small town. To Amy’s chagrin, David attempts to befriend the locals, including Amy’s ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård). But resentments re-emerge and tensions rise to an explosive end.
Brian – 3 out of 10
A lot of people’s first reaction to a remake is how it fares to the original. The now legendary Sam Peckinpah is a hard act to follow when it comes to creating on screen chaos. And, as far as comparing it to the original, it is a very faithful adaption. The main difference is the setting. In the original version, it took place in a small British town and here we’re in a small American town. But, setting aside, the story progression and flow are very similar. I am a big fan of Peckinpah but always considered Straw Dogs to be one of his weaker films and the remake reflects that. If you change the actors, modernize the story and change the setting, and still end up with a disappointing result, then where does the problem lie? Well, the script is the main culprit. While the synopsis is very interesting, the execution is flawed. For instance, Kate Bosworth’s character is presented as a strong and independent woman. However, when she’s presented with conflict, she constantly retreats and makes dumb decisions. If you’re going to have a female character who has no problem confronting others, then why after she’s sexually assaulted by two men, does she say nothing? Not only that, but she pushes her husband to attend public events where her assaulters are sitting a few feet away. This is all happening in a town that she left, hated, and never wanted to come back to. And, that isn’t just a problem with her actions but all of the characters’ actions. There’s so little consistency or believability in any of them, save for James Woods who is utterly wasted. It also presents a terrible social commentary. On several occasions, characters from the town are giving the line, “that’s just the way we do things around here.” It involves things as minor as how early they show up to start their roofing job to how they behave in public. It’s such a permeating theme throughout that it made me almost question whether Kate Bosworth’s character maintained her silence despite her horrific gang rape because “that’s the way they do things around here.” I hope I’m wrong but the script seemed to convey that message.
As far as the film itself, it’s a mixed bag. The performances are all very good except for James Marsden, who is horribly miscast in the role of David. He is far too big and in too good of shape to come across as the wimp that character needs to be. He’s also the weakest performer in the cast and seems way out of his league alongside the rest. Is it a technically well made feature? Yes. It certainly never made any drastic decisions in the story that visually underminded the theme. But, when the script is weak, there’s not a lot you can do. A line from John Carpenter’s “Christine” said it best: “You can’t polish a turd.”