Straw Dogs


It is knee-jerk to decry the remake, but to the credit of writer-director Rod Lurie, who has adapted Sam Peckinpah’s U.K.-set 1971 film into this U.S.-set 2011 version, Straw Dogs brings to multiplexes a slow-burn setup and formal rigor that recall a bygone era, rather than “updating” the concept into contemporary overkill. Successful screenwriter David (James Marsden, toothsome and dressed for Santa Barbara) takes his wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), back to her small Louisiana hometown, where he plans to work in peace on his Stalingrad script in the ancestral home, which will eventually survive a siege. (Lurie goes over the film’s protect-your-turf themes with a highlighter.) David also hires Amy’s old flame Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his peckerwood pals to re-roof the barn. From this lofty perch, already towering ex-quarterback Charlie begins a campaign of dick-measuring intimidation, goading “Hollywood” David and coming on to Amy. Lurie sets up the animus between David and Charlie through visual and aural conflicts, from an opening that puts pickup and Jaguar on a collision course to the ongoing workday feud between Classical and Classic Rock, while macho motifs of buck hunting and Friday-night football are incorporated in wild cross-cutting pieces. There’s no matching the sinister village faces in Peckinpah’s cast or the psychological acuity of his scene-making, but Lurie shows himself man enough for the material.