Straw Dogs

Marsden's Home is his Castle

         
 

24 September 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Selective share of good scenes even if it doesn’t all convince when it comes together. Straw Dogs is the house under siege movie with James Marsden and Kate Bosworth where they must counter attack a group of redneck drunks intent with breaking in with vendetta. The movie depends on circumstantial build-up until along plaster-smashing and bone-crunching climax, and so the rage between good and evil begins to simmer before reaching its full boil. Surprisingly, it’s a good enough watch if you’re looking for nitty gritty thrills and has just enough in it to make you think about social class intolerance. But there’s a harder to please group out there: Anybody that recalls the original with Dustin Hoffman will probably not be satisfied (at least in terms of relative expectations), that 1971 masterpieceis profound as well as confoundedly upsetting. The climax of this one – which we all admittedly are aching for whether familiar to the original story or not – is entertaining in a primal way of who curiously is going to get the most hurt. But it doesn’t shatter your emotions.

The perky married Sumners have just moved to small town Mississippi where football and religion coincide as popular mores. Marsden and Bosworth, a Hollywood screenwriter and a TV actress from the area of Blackwater originally, share a certain brittle tension. Alexander Skarsgård (TV’s “True Blood”), as Charlie, is the carpenter with a past fling with Bosworth, something that Marsden meekly appears to feel unbothered by (he’s often not man enough to speak his displeasure). For the most part Charlie’s boys get into brawls and go off-season hunting and debasingly leer at girls.

Several flukes happen amongst the Sumner’s and Charlie’s boys that escalate the psychological warfare into the straits of a physical one. One crucial intersection involves James Woods as a xenophobic football coach with an uneasy, aberrant case of over-protection of his teenage daughter. The character of Jeremy Niles (Dominic Purcell), as the town’s mocked retard, is essentially well-tuned to the plot: Woods wants to beat the living s*** out of Niles and then kill him, while David Sumner wants to protect the frightened Jeremy inside his home. Hence, this mild intellectual must defend his home against intoxicated terrorizers.

Screen violence is relegated to realism, how about that? Well, it’s exaggerated and extra blood-curdling and all that, but Marsden and Bosworth are still relatable people in it and so that makes it halfway real. I’ve enjoyed Marsden in offbeat head-spinners like “The Box” (2009) and as the straight-arrow who unintentionally overfeeds on hallucinogens in “Death at a Funeral” (2010), and here, while he’s no Hoffman he’s at least a believable white linen-wearing dupe. Bosworth is for the most part tone-deaf to every part she touches (she ruined “Superman Returns,” 2006), but this time she slides into the role of careless blonde tease credibly.

One accustomed to the original can’t expect any improvements of any aspect, yet surprisingly, Skarsgård is a far better actor as the manipulative sex-starved creep than Del Henney was in the original (he’s the one big improvement). I can’t wait to see what Skarsgård does next – he has the potential to become a Nordic Edward Norton, not just a Nordic Michael Vartan. I wonder how he would have fit had he been acting in 1971.

110 Minutes. Rated R.

VIOLENT THRILLERS / SUSPENSE / SATURDAY NIGHT THRILLER FOLLOWED BY SUNDAY MORNING MASS

Film Cousins: “Wait Until Dark” (1967); Straw Dogs” (1971); “The Vanishing” (1988, Denmark); “Fear” (1996).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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