The teaser trailer for Rod Lurie’s remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic Straw Dogs hit the ‘net this week. The 1971 original, Peckinpah’s most controversial film was banned in the UK for many years due to its violence, and a particularly contentious rape scene. As with much of Peckinpah’s work, Straw Dogs was full of artistic brilliance but its reputation was marred by criticism of some of the more edgy elements. That such a great movie has found itself boiled down to the film with ‘that scene’ is a great shame. Beware potential spoilers for both the original and the remake below.
Straw Dogs told the story of a mild-mannered American man, played by Dustin Hoffman, and his English wife. They move to her small English home town and find themselves the target of some of the locals, one of whom is the wife’s ex-boyfriend. Malicious intimidation escalates into horrifying violence, both physical and sexual, and the third act sees Hoffman’s quiet, reserved mathematician snap, in the process finding himself capable of sadistic violence himself.
There was a lot of surprise when a remake was announced. Remakes are common place nowadays, but that someone would choose to remake such a controversial and perfectly made movie seemed a brave move. It is hard to imagine any filmmaker in the industry managing to top Peckinpah’s original, and as a generally little known film, there is no real brand name value to give the remake a leg up with the modern audience. There was also question marks over whether it would keep the same psychologically troubling tone, and retain the most controversial element of the 1971 original. Does the trailer give any clues? You can check it out for yourself here at Slash Film.
The trailer suggests that the remake will indeed follow the original pretty damn closely, with some scenes seemingly copied almost frame for frame. The action looks to have been ramped up, with more gunplay, but James Marsden’s character looks to again be using anything at his disposal to use as a weapon. So the tone is probably the same. What really made the original, however, was Hoffman’s brilliant performance. It is easy to overplay an everyman suddenly pushed to the very edge, but Hoffman managed to get it pitch perfect. Does Marsden have the same chops? Frankly, no, but despite a lot of criticism he has displayed recently that he really is more than he showed us in the X-men series, particularly in the recent remake of Death at a Funeral.
There has been some consternation that someone would ‘dare’ to remake a Peckinpah film. I have no major problem with it. Peckinpah is one of my favourite filmmakers, but considering his original was based on a book, The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon Williams, i don’t think there is any cause for complaint. As a big fan of the original, I am curious to see if Lurie manages to up his game and come close to Peckinpah’s genius. We’ll have to just wait and see.
Bazmann – You can follow me on Twitter at