Rod Lurie’s remake of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 classic Straw Dogs – a film that drew a huge amount of criticism in its day, and seen by many as a debasement of women – manages to effectively capture some of the thrilling intensity of the original, yet brings nothing new to the table. There are a number of variations in story and plot that differ from Peckinpah’s original, with Lurie’s reimagining seamlessly re-located to the American Deep South.
Lurie’s remake sees young couple David (James Marsden), a scriptwriter from Los Angeles, and his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) move to a quaint southern hick town. However, their perfect getaway quickly becomes a living hell when lethal passions spiral out of control and they find themselves entrapped by the depraved locals, led by ruthless predator Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård).
If Lurie’s ultimate goal was to recreate the incredibly tense atmosphere of the original, and to develop the character depth required to emphasise that, he has fallen a little short. Whilst the cast deliver a collectively well-rounded performance, in places Lurie’s Straw Dogs (2011) feels slightly flat, with little of the tension between the film’s protagonists explored until very late on.
The respective performances of Bosworth and Skarsgård as Charlie, the ringleader behind the terrible events that unfold, give Lurie’s remake some artistic weight, with arguably the film’s most harrowing scene being testament to that. The discomfort, shock, and fear felt by Bosworth’s character are expressed so powerfully through what is a painful but fantastic performance to watch, whilst Skarsgård, although unable to shake his Nordic twang completely for the part, portrays a southern redneck with a relentless air of malevolence, that is packaged into a cool, calm and collected exterior, making his character all the more unnerving to watch.
Respectably, Lurie has managed to modernise Straw Dogs without losing too much of its identity and without having to reinvent the wheel, but, aside from its relocation and slight tweaks to the structure, further reshaping may have gone a long way to making it more memorable, much like the original it sought to reinvent.