If I made this movie, I wouldn't be worried about Mississippi Governor
Haley Barbour protesting the portrayal of the state and its fine
citizens. I would be worried about him hunting me down and getting
James Marsden and Kate Bosworth star as David and Amy Sumner - a
Hollywood screenwriter and a TV actress who head back to her
Mississippi hometown to rebuild the family farm, while he works on a
screenplay. Of course, the locals aren't all that high on this Jaguar
driving writer with money to burn, especially Amy's old boyfriend,
Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), who has been hired with his buddies to
work on the barn roof.
As Charlie seems to be intent on rekindling the old passions with Amy,
and the rest of his crew tries to assert a bit of male dominance over
David with good-natured teasing that is starting to go too far, the
tensions between all are putting them on the path to a confrontation
that will be as ugly as anything you have ever seen before.
When it comes time to stand up and defend his wife and house, will
David be ready?
Who will snap first?
Writer/Director Rod Lurie (based on the screenplays by Sam Peckinpah
and David Zelag Goodman) has made a movie that can teach many young
directors how to use violence to blow you out of the theater instead of
beating you over the head with pointless, non-stop visual images of it.
Straw Dogs has a sinister tone with all of the
tensions simmering below the surface, growing and growing until they
cannot be contained anymore. Then, when the shocking violence happens
(sparsely and at the right moments), the audience feels it in their
guts because it's raw, surprising and realistic. In a way, the violence
defines the characters and story, instead of existing to satisfy a
Lurie also complicates the story and the relationships between the
characters to keep the audience on their toes. The problems between
David and Amy fuel the disagreements between David and the locals, and
the challenges to his manhood as he has a different set of values and
point of view than all of them. Yet, he's a man, and he doesn't want
that to be brought into question.
Underneath the obvious, we see the unspoken struggle between the rich
guy and the poorer people, and the differences between the small town
soul versus big town, East Coast "sophistication." Plus, David is not
completely innocent, which helps drive the locals distaste for him and
his personality, and make the audience wonder if he might be bringing
some of this onto himself.
Marsden is very solid walking a tightrope between macho guy and 98
pound weakling, which is tough, since he is an action star and
physically strong guy. Then, Bosworth gives us some of the best work
she has ever given as the wife who is walking her own tightrope between
loving her husband and life in Hollywood versus some sort of unresolved
feelings about her hometown, her understanding of its ways and why she
might have left.
If you are like me, seeing Straw Dogs will keep you up a little
later than usual that night.
Straw Dogs is rated R for strong brutal
violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and