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Straw Dogs

What in the Sam Peckinpah Hill is this?!? Rod Lurie's remake of the controversial 1971 rape-revenger not called A Clockwork Orange lies there like the dying deer gunned down by a group of Mississippi hicks in the precredits sequence. Peckinpah's original, for all its drink-'n'-drug-hazy dealings with topical themes like feminism, righteous violence and "what it means to be a man," was at least an expertly blood-boiling brickbat. This one barely musters a pulse.

Instead of Dustin Hoffman's meek mathematician, we get aging pretty-boy screenwriter David Sumner (Marsden, all cheekbones), who takes over the isolated Southern house left to his sorta-dim-bulb wife, Amy (Bosworth, all "no nudity" clause). The narrative through-line is more or less the same as the original: Some roof work needs doing. A few local boys led by Amy's ex Charlie (Skarsgrd, all chest) volunteer. Tensions escalate. Slutty girl who may very well "be asking for it" gets raped. Rednecks attack. Humble guy doles out ultraviolent humble pie. Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!

Lurie adds nothing new to the scenario save for some halfhearted commentary on Hollywood's obsession with torture porn (a Saw reference in the first act portends a ridiculous Jigsaw-like comeuppance in the third). And he encourages his cast to go more for cheap-seats ham than trenchant horror---looking at you, James Woods---which only heightens the sense that we're being sold derivative goods. Give Straw Dogs redux this much: It lives up to the second half of its title.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

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Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday September 16 2011
Duration: 110 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Rod Lurie
Screenwriter: Rod Lurie
Cast: James Marsden
James Woods
Kate Bosworth
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