Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Straw Dogs

The 1971 film that received controversial notoriety in the UK for being banned has been in the mix for remake for several years. The original film was banned by the British Board of Film Classification objecting to what it considered a clear indication that the victim comes to enjoy being raped. Not until 2002, was the film finally certified by the BBFC as it was the 2nd rape that is clearly demonstrated to be an act of violation. It was also in 2002 that Ed Norton began his courtship with the film. Norton was attached to the film as the producer and the lead role previously performed by Dustin Hoffman. The plan was to change the title to "Fear Itself", but after issues between the studio and the screenplay it sat idle. In 2009 the remake started filming in Shreveport, Louisiana with James Marsden (David Sumner), Kate Bosworth (Amy Sumner), Alexander Skarsgård (Charlie), and James Woods (Tom Heddon).

The film is based on the novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm" written by Gordon Williams in 1969. There are many differences between the book and both films. The remake follows the original screenplay more than it does the book. The most glaring difference is that there is no rape in the book. The decision to include the rape scene was made by Sam Peckinpah in his attempt to push the limits accepted by the film society. An aspect of the book that does carry through into both of the films is the house as its own character. The opening pages of the book provide a blue print of the house helping to build a point of reference to each of the acts that occur. This is followed through in the film as you first drive up to the house you can see it as a strong, reliable, house that will protect you.

The remake of the film follows an L.A. screenwriter David Sumner and his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both. The performances from Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård and James Woods are powerful; however James Marsden falls flat in my opinion. There is a lot of eye candy provided by Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgård has his shirt off for most of the film contributing to his five year run as sexiest man in Sweden. There are two quietly powerful performances from Dominic Purcell (Jeremy Niles) and Rhys Coiro (Norman) that with few lines provides more to their character than James Marsden is capable of doing. Dominic Purcell is a physical actor known from "Prison Break" that is emotionally stunted as the village idiot and implied pedophile Jeremy Niles who has a history of violence towards women and insanity. Rhys Coiro is an intellectual actor known from "Entourage" that is muted by Norman and provides the one of the most brutal attacks in the film.

One aspect of the 1971 original that I never agreed with is that during the attack on the house Amy calls out for Charlie to help her when Norman is attacking her. She also tries to warn Charlie just before David kills him. Both of these were corrected in the remake to prevent any illusion that Amy was accepting of the violent act against her.

I was a fan of the book, the original, and now the remake. I feel the changes made from the original to the remake were necessary and contribute to a better resolution. The overall acting was good with the exceptions noted above. Ultimately, this is a 5 Quack film even though I don't think it will receive any award recognition.

The original poster was copied

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