Kate Bosworth has one impressive breastbone. It’s not exactly sexy, but there’s something about the way a man can count every indentation on her chest that’ll make him want to fight over her like a hungry animal. Or so the remake of Straw Dogs would have you believe. It’s Cyclops from the X-Men movies versus True Blood’s Eric Northman for the last remnants of Lois Lane’s carcass. I know, I know, it’s really supposed to be a war of ideals. Will instinct conquer intellect when a human being is pushed too far? That’s what Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 motion picture was about.
Rod Lurie’s 2011 remodel is about Kate Bosworth’s breastbone.
For this modern updating, the story is transplanted from Southern England to the American South. Mississippi, to be exact. Bosworth’s Amy Sumner, now a famous actress, returns home with her four-eyed, buffed-out screenwriter husband David (James Marsden). Seeing the people and places of her youth makes Amy uncomfortable, but David just wants to fit in. Amy’s ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård), still carries a torch, and though he feigns friendliness, he thinks smarty-pants David isn’t man enough for the skinny blonde. To prove it, he rapes Amy. Cue gory revenge.
The new Straw Dogs is actually a decent movie, though wholly unnecessary. Lurie, best known for political fare like The Contender, has crafted a strict cover version of Peckinpah’s more provocative masterpiece. He’s aiming for Faulknerian hothouse drama, shooting the picture like it’s Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear because, well, Scorsese got away with remaking a famous movie, he clearly knows something. The problem is, Lurie wants to deal in moral ambiguities, but his stock-in-trade is absolutes. His points about aggression and provocation are stymied by his unequivocal justifications. It’s set up as a pinko/redneck showdown, but if Lurie meant to draw a line in the sand between the “Left Coast” and “Real America,” he failed. The screening audience was cheering for death like it was a Republican presidential debate. I just hope for his sake that Cyclops has health insurance.