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Film Festival Today

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Film Review: “Straw Dogs”

Written by: FFT Webmaster | September 16th, 2011

Implausible, weak characters with wonky motivations, and a skinny chick who instigates the carnage.

Jaguar driving Hollywood screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his former TV series actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) return to her backwater hometown in Mississippi. Her father recently passed away leaving a rundown estate and Amy’s cat.

Amy escaped small town life but is the local made-good native. While the townspeople revere Amy, they immediately hate her glasses wearing, intellectual husband. He’s a damn writer! And, to boot, he’s writing a screenplay about WW2 Russian heroes! There will be no beer drinking or cock-fighting in his screenplay.

The town is made up of men who, I was ready to hear say, “Now let’s you just drop them pants.”*

Amy takes David to the local bar where they meet her ex-boyfriend, Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård), his hunting buddies, and former coach/the town’s mean drunk, Tom Heddon (James Woods). Also at the bar is slow-minded Jeremy Niles (Dominic Purcell), the town’s burden (formerly known as “the town idiot”). Jeremy did something way back that makes everyone keep watching him around young girls.

Even though Amy is a skinny girl with great cheekbones, no sex appeal or running shoes, she’s the only female in town. Charlie is the hottest, sexiest guy in town hanging on to a teenage crush. Once a high school football star, he’s now a contractor with a crew.

Charlie is big and built like a man who works outdoors with manly tools. He’s got a charismatic aura, so David immediately hires him and his crew to fix their barn’s roof. The guys are at the Sumner’s property at dawn making noise, drinking beer, and leering at bra-less Amy. Every noon, they go hunting.

When we first meet Amy and David, they are so lovely-dovey, it’s like Mississippi’s THE NOTEBOOK. As soon as Charlie comes along swinging a hammer, Amy slips right back into her cheerleader past. Instead of covering up, she exposes herself to the guys.

It doesn’t help that David is small and has curly hair. He has a cell phone and a computer.

If only David would write a script for his wife to star in! David is clueless about the lure of big former football stars who work shirtless and have a Madison Avenue hairstyle. David is not the least bit threatened.

The arrival of the local boys pounding away at dawn starts gnawing at the Sumner’s picture-perfect marriage. Suddenly, David complains about Amy’s shoeless runs in tiny sweats. Amy mocks David’s manhood.

So, what does David do? He goes hunting with the guys and kills a deer. Then he leaves the deer to rot in the forest.

Meanwhile, beautiful Charlie returns to the Sumner house. It turns nasty, especially when Charlie’s buddy comes along. Hey, its 2011! Lock the damn front door.

Amy doesn’t tell David what transpired while he was left abandoned in the forest. Instead of hightailing it out of town or to the police, Amy takes David to a football game.

You will be ostracized in Mississippi if you do not go to Church, the local bar, and football games. Guess who David and Amy sit right next to?

Former Coach Tom has an inappropriate relationship with his teenage daughter Janice (Willa Holland). He’s obsessed with watching her every move. Of course,15 year old Janice keeps flirting with Jeremy. It drives Coach Tom crazy.

When this slow-moving, idyllic deep South drama turns ugly David goes medieval as the damages to their barn and house escalate. The predictable carnage delivers the goods. Nothing says carnage like a shotgun blast to the face.

Weeping Amy hides in the upstairs bedroom. It is up to David to “man-up”.

The acting by Marsden and Bosworth is weak, but that is writer/director Rod Lurie’s fault. Woods’ over-the-top drunk ruins the movie. While Skarsgård is the big, bad wolf with a wounded heart, he’s played by one of Hollywood’s hottest men. You have got to respect that. Charlie is a rapist but Lurie clearly knows Skarsgård is a seductive actor and he frames him accordingly.

While everyone who saw or knows about the original STRAW DOGS (1971) starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George, directed and written by Sam Peckinpah, who remembers Charlie (Del Henney)?

Member of Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/
Member of the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/
My weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.
If you would like to be included on my private distribution list for a weekly preview, just email me at masauu@aol.com.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at masauu@aol.com.

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