Horror review: Straw Dogs



By Steve Newton

In this remake of Sam Peckinpah’s controversial 1971 payback epic starring Dustin Hoffman, pretty-boy Hollywood screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his sexy actor wife, Amy (Kate Bosworth), power their sleek silver Jag into the Mississippi burgh of Blackwater. They are there to fix up the family home she inherited after her father’s death. David is the bashful, bookish type, and Amy is a feisty wild child, but you’re left wondering early on if that whole opposites-attract thing isn’t being stretched a tad too far here.

Turns out Amy’s cheerleader past has included a “highly memorable” relationship with the town’s former high-school gridiron hero, Charlie (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård), who leads the stereotypical crew of good ol’ boys hired by the Sumners to repair their Katrina-damaged barn roof. These stock rednecks—including one played by Rhys Coiro, channelling his renegade/weasel film director, Billy Walsh, from Entourage—are most at home pounding beers in the back of a pickup with deer horns mounted on its grill and hooting at the butt cheeks of nearby joggers.

Get out the cookie cutters.

It is kinda fun to watch the inimitable James Woods playing James Woods to the hilt as a scornful, boozing ex–high-school football coach who is always one small step away from violence—or none at all. In one of the weakest of Straw Dogs’ questionable plot lines, “Coach” is obsessed with keeping his flirty teenage daughter away from the town’s “fucking retard”, a mentally challenged man halfheartedly played by Prison Break’s Dominic Purcell.

Even for a routine revenge thriller, Straw Dogs gets increasingly hard on the brain cells leading up to its predictable blood-soaked climax. On the bright side, it’s probably the only movie ever made to boast kickass tunes by the southern-rock triumvirate of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and Blackfoot.

Besides that, it scrapes up one brownie point for innovative use of a bear trap.

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