Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Straw Dogs (2011)

wet Alexander Skarsgard
Alexander Skarsgard all wet

Alexander Skarsgard bare chested
Bare chested Alexander Skarsgard

It seems as much as I say I hate remakes, I still end up seeing them. True I usually avoid them at theaters but eventually I end up watching them. Even the God awful Day of the Dead remake I have sat through on cable. Even free it totally sucked ass. So with nothing else at the theater and me bored I went to see Straw Dogs.

Straw Dogs is a remake of a film by Sam Peckinpaw starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George. I wasn’t expecting much, but was hoping to be surprised. While true The original was directed by one of my favorite directors of all time and starred one of the greatest living actors and the smoking hot Susan George. Still I was never a huge fan of Straw Dogs. I have only seen it once, and it just never took root like The Wild Bunch or Billy the Kid. SO I had no real emotional attachment to the original Straw Dogs to make me hate the remake off hand.

Still, it’s a remake and I just generally hate remakes on principle alone. There is never a real need for a remake. There are too many original projects that never get funded, never get made, never get released. Even if a remake turns out good, what original script never sees the light. Remakes are nothing but a cheap grab at profits off someone else’s work. Ok that’s a rant for another story. Back to Straw dogs.

So I went into Straw Dogs with no extra animosity. It was a remake but it wasn’t destroying the memory of a cherished film from my childhood (Hello Candyman remake). I was prepared to give it a shot.

On the positive side it starred red hot Alexander Skarsgard from True Blood. Now I’m not gay but if I were ever tempted it would be by Alexander. The rest of the first billed cast did little for me, and really Alexander was the main reason I ended up at the theater.

One big positive that was missed was Walton Groggins. It was great seeing him on the big screen. What wasn’t great was how little screen time he actually got. Blink once you’re ok, twice maybe, three time, see you missed him. Walton steals the small screen in what ever role he is in. Check him out on The Shield or Justified. Attention Hollywood it’s time he got either a lead role or a big ass role in a major film.

The big negative was that it was a remake. Sorry but with a remake there is always that feeling of “seen it before.” Porting the film from England to the deep south was a nice change and worked fairly well in and off itself, but it was just a really close remake. Even though I had only seen the original Straw Dogs once I pretty much knew what was up all the way through. Sorry but that is a negative when I bust out ten bucks a ticket for a film.

Being from the south I recognized a lot of the characters. While some were a bit stereotyped I never really felt insulted. I didn’t feel wronged because even though they were sometimes stretched, they were real. I grew up with those people.

I did feel the sub plot with the high school ingénue and the over muscled “slow” man came off as fake. Sorry I see what they were shooting at but never bought it. It came off as too much like Of Mice and Men. Once again I haven’t seen the original Straw Dogs in years so this could be almost exactly what happened in the original. Still it didn’t quite work for me.

James Marsden really stood out as the fish out of water Hollywood writer.  I'm not a huge fan of Marsden but I really bought into his character and felt for him. Maybe he was a bit stereotypical liberal, but he did manage to offend my southern sensibilities, not with his actions, but with his attitude at times. His character for the most part felt he was better than the locals. At times he seemed to want to fit in, but mostly he seemed to just want to avoid the locals and their customs. Still he proved to be heroic and at the end WAS better than the locals. More on that later.

Kate Bosworth was just there. No offense to her but I found her character unlikable in the first Straw Dogs. I pretty much felt the same in the remake. Her character instigates many of the conflicts in Straw Dogs. I’m not taking the position that a woman should “cover up” to avoid unwanted male attention, but she did stir the sexual pot. At times she was actually provoking the tension. It’s not her fault it’s the way she was written and without her the story takes on a deeper, darker tone. I have always seen her character as just as much the villain as Skarsgard’s locals.

The magnet that draws and holds you to Straw Dogs is Alexander Skarsgard though. He exudes southern charm while channeling Eric Northman every time he scowls at the camera. Till near the end he almost comes off as a sympathetic character. In love with the woman he can never have. The woman who detests the life he leaves, and the life she left behind.

One big fault to me was how the lovable, mild Charlie at the beginning could become the violent killer at the end. Maybe there was always some psychosis behind his smile but I didn’t see it. The rape scene mid way through seemed more in character. We know he loves Amy. He is also deluded that Amy still has feelings for him. A delusion that Amy does nothing to disperse, and at times seems to encourage.

The final assault on the Sumner homestead, lead by a maniacal James Woods is violent and bloody. Pacifist David defends his wife, home and the slow Jeremy from the angry mob while Amy cowers in the room, urging him to capitulate every chance she gets. It does get bloody folks. One of the more violent segments in a non horror film. That last battle might not make Peckinpaw proud, but it wouldn’t embarrass him either. Much of the final fight is taken directly from the original Straw Dogs.

So what’s the verdict. Overall it’s not a bad film. Decent acting, decent story, lots of violence. I never had to stretch my disbelief to thin although I did feel it wanting to slip at times. It will never go down as a classic. More likely it will end up in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, but hey they are some decent flicks in there (Ernest Scared Straight FTW!). Still it’s worth a watch even at theater prices, especially if you have never seen the original.

True blue Peckinpaw fans might pan it but there have been much worse remakes made. Day of the Dead. There’s enough action and violence to keep you entertained and the ending is explosive. SO for a remake I will give Straw Dogs a passing score. Not an A+ but a solid B. So if you are bored, or if you are an Alexander Skarsgard (or Eric Northman) fan check it out. Then go and rent or buy everything with Walton Goggins in it and see a real under appreciated actor.


Links you might like hombre!
Nearly Naked Alexander Skarsgard
Eliza Jayne, hottest up and coming model on the net

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