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Review: Straw Dogs

Rod Lurie's new version of the Peckinpah classic
By MICHAEL ATKINSON  |  September 20, 2011
2.0 2.0 Stars

Remaking, polishing, and in effect housebreaking what should've remained untamed and feral, Rod Lurie's new version of the Peckinpah classic follows the original's story beats closely, and so the devil is in the details. Rather than a young Dustin Hoffman as a math geek stranded in the English countryside with his restless wife Susan George, surrounded by gun-toting yokels, we get cartoon-faced-stud James Marsden as a screenwriter returning to his young wife's Mississippi burg and riling the drunken hayseeds. The climactic bloodbath is almost shot-for-shot, but what's missing is the '70s sense of realistic ugliness, ambivalence (Kate Bosworth's nubile wife adamantly resists her ex-boyfriend's rape attempt while George's initial resistance became consent), and moral relativism. Of course Lurie overwrites it, transforming forces of inexplicable violence into idiot individuals with paper-thin M.O.'s. In the end, you could fear and pity Hoffman's grinning nerd/cutthroat, but Marsden's just a Hollywood hero.

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