Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Straw Dogs" remake has a trailer

Sam Peckinpah's "Straw Dogs" is one of the most controversial movies ever made; and certain parts of it remain a tough sit to this day. It'd easily be near the top of my list of films that NO ONE has any business remaking; and that goes double for when the remaker in question is well-meaning but chronically-heavy-handed Rod Lurie...




The original featured a young Dustin Hoffman as a nerdy American college professor who moves into a rural farmhouse in his new wife's backwater British hometown; where his intellectual/pacifist nature puts him on the wrong side of the leader of the local hooligans... who happens to be the wife's ex-boyfriend. Infamously, it includes a scene where said ex participates in the gang-rape of the wife, and the staging of the scene implies that she partially (or wholly) welcomes/encourages the experience because she's somehow not "over" the bad guy or the brute/caveman 'type' he represents.

In turn she (and other events) "goad" Hoffman's character with escalating moments of emasculation (the "battle" for The Girl is symbolic of the caveman/"new-man" culture-clash, is the idea), culminating in a "fight or flight" seige sequence where he's forced to improvise a brutal defense of the homestead, "Die Hard" style, when the bad guys attack. It's all played pitch-black, right down to the implication that the wife's "rescue" is unimportant next to Hoffman's "rescue" of his own alpha-confidence over the heavies.

This trailer for the new one looks about like I'd feared it would: Overly-slick and void of the key moral ambiguity that made the original more than just another revenge-exploitation movie. The action has moved to the American south, and it looks like Lurie's most consistent weakness - blunt socio-political message-mongering is on full display: The hero (James Marsden) is now a "liberal" atheist/agnostic Hollywood screenwriter (author-insert much?) while the main baddie is an ex-jock redneck churchgoer. Yeesh.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate where Lurie is coming from, but it seems a bit much even just from this trailer. The original had it's omnipresent bigger themes (America vs. Europe, urban vs. rural, brains vs. brawn, etc.) but they were dressing for the main setup of a modern person's forced-descent into primal survival-mode; remaking it into a straight-up "Red State vs. Blue State" thing seems like a tremendous missed-opportunity.

12 comments:

CraftyAndy said...

I completley agree. I never understand how anyone caters to one political party. As if voting demo or republican even means anything to begin with.

Nick said...

I never could figure out how the original Straw Dogs could have been intended as anything other than a tacit endorsement of the "He who shoots first rapes most" lifestyle embodied by the hooligans. The protagonist's entire character arc is to become more like them so he can reacquire his wife like a trophy. I still have a nagging doubt that it was even intended as a satire.

In a way, if Rod Lurie is "heavy-handed," that might actually be an improvement. Peckinpah's "message" might have been a little TOO subtle for my tastes, under that veneer.

Rob said...

Huh, Home Alone for the Saw crowd. Since he aged enough, I hope Macauly Culkin makes a cameo.

MovieBob said...

@Nick,

I'd offer that the main problem with that particular interpretation is that, even if we are to take Susan George as a "trophy," it's a trophy he no longer wants and doesn't claim. The finale is as much about Hoffman's character rejecting HER - and, implicitly, refuting her negative judgements of his masculinity.

I think it's important that he doesn't fully turn the tide of the battle until we/he hear her start calling out to her rapist for help instead of her husband, and his "driving goal" seems to switch over from "protect-my-suddenly-much-less-worth-it-wife" to "kill-these-bastards-and-establish-my-alpha-dominance."

He becomes "like them" only to the extent that proving/maintaining his manhood through force - something his earlier-stated philosophy would've abhored, granted - but even then the final exchange between him and David Warner ("I don't know the way home." "Neither do I." or along those lines) strongly suggests that he's not so much "secure" in his newfound nihilism as he is lost in a strange new world. It's an "end of the 60s" ending, I think is the idea: Tradition (marriage, cottage in the country) was a lie, Peace&Love (intellectual pacifism) failed... now what?

Chris said...

If you close one eye you could pretend it was "I Spit on Your Grave" with an extra protagonist.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

I'll generally enjoy a work that makes a moral/political message, even if it's one I disagree with, if it can do it in a subtle or interesting way. Something that makes me think or even question my own world view. This does not do that... this is about as subtle as a sledge hammer. It's hyperbolic to the point of silly, and not even in a particularly interesting way

I'll have to look into the original becouse that sounds alot more interesting.

Nick said...

@MovieBob: Interesting point about the "End of the 60s" theme, but I still think it plays a little too much like "Frank Miller's 'Aesop's Fables'."

Especially since that little exchange at the end you mentioned is with a character who "accidentally" strangled a young woman who was flirting with him.

ZAENGO said...

i think this is awful and i dont apreciate where he's coming from at all. straw dogs is a cinema classic. rod lurie's an idiot and his first name is rod. this is bad and i will have no part in it thank you very much.

Aiddon said...

why, oh WHY

Giuseppe said...

Anyone who was following this saw it coming a mile away. It's some hack producer and film maker's attempt to make a name for themselves. The writing was on the wall when they cast the go-to leading man, James Marsden.

Enjoy your Death Wish sequel to those who see it though. I hope Bosworth is at least naked in it.

James said...

Bob, this is OT, but I thought you might enjoy Penn Jillette's analysis of "Atlas Shrugged":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNWEYCLLz04&list=SL

Martín Cerón said...

"I'm glad we came" LOL