Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Straw Dogs: Movie Review


Straw characters living in a dull world which then turns violent.

“Straw Dogs” is a faithful adaptation of the original 1971 version. But only if your definition of “faithful” means scene-by-scene, word-for-word duplication, not if your definition means including the same thoughtful ideas that can stay with you after the movie ends. It’s also a thriller. But, again, only if “thriller” means nothing happens until we get a lot of gruesome violence at the end. Which apparently it does for most people.2011

Directed by: Rod Lurie

Screenplay by: Rod Lurie

Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård

From what I know, the only real change made was the profession of the main character David Sumner. In the original, he was a mathematics professor. The point being that he was an intellectual and could not relate (even if he wanted) to the common, country folk. In this version, he’s a Hollywood screenwriter of the laughably bad TV crime shows. Apparently that’s the modern version of an intellectual.

In good thrillers, the slow scenes at the beginning are meant to be character-building scenes. Establishing the complexities to the characters and mounting anticipation for what might happen to them. In “Straw Dogs”, these characters appear to be made out of straw. There is absolutely no substance to them, and in some cases were randomly thrown together using characteristics from past movie characters. The worst one was the wife of Sumner. I’m guessing that she was the one we were supposed to feel sorry for. But once we get past the first hour of nothingness, she was just there for shock value. Not for us to consider the many horrible consequences to rape, or the varying dynamics to family and childhood relationships. And the reason why there is nothing for us to think about is because she is not a real character since nothing about her was clearly established.

The first hour of this movie literally had nothing to it. The set-up of Sumner and his wife moving back to her hometown and the boorishness of the locals could have been established in two to five minutes instead of 60. If they wanted to give us characters they could have done it then. But as I have already beaten that to death, they did not give us any characters.

By the time we get to the end of “Straw Dogs”, we’re not only supposed to be deeply invested in the livelihood of the characters but we’re also supposed to be questioning where the line of morality actually lies or is everything just grey? Instead we just want to the screen to turn grey.


Drive (2011) - A thriller disguised as a character study as a driver goes from a quiet life to one of violence.

Take Shelter (2011) - Character study turned thriller about the difference between the end of the world and insanity.