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'Straw Dogs': What the Critics Are Saying

Straw Dogs Film Still - P 2011
Sony Pictures
"Straw Dogs"

Director Rod Lurie's remake of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 original hit theaters on Friday.

Director Rod Lurie's remake of Sam Peckinpah's 1971 original, Straw Dogs, opened in theaters on Friday and the critics have been weighing in on the Screen Gems film, which stars James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard.

The film centers on a Los Angeles screenwriter David (Marsden) and his wife Amy (Bosworth), who move back to Amy's hometown in the south. Things escalate between the couple and the people in the town, led by Amy's ex-boyfriend (Skarsgard).

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy said Lurie's redo "added nothing and subtracts nuance and ambiguity from what was one of the more controversial films of an already tumultuous period," comparing it to the original. He noted that the film followed the exact premise of the 1971 film, and "aside from the changes in settings and professions, Lurie has deviated little from the script by David Zelag Goodman and Peckinpah."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips  called it a "dumbed-down remake" of the Peckinpah film and declared that it "can't hold a candle to the unruly, unstable merits" of the original. He said the parts were "miscast" and the film is "barely functional in terms of technique."

The New York Times' A.O. Scott said "the new Straw Dogs is at times a faithful copy of the old one, reproducing a great many scenes, shots and passages of dialogue, and tweaking others ever so slightly. As a filmmaker, Mr. Lurie cannot hope to match Peckinpah's lyricism, but he strikes a decent balance of bluntness and subtlety." But Scott offered at the end, "Straw Dogs does give you something to think about."

The Associated Press' Christy Lemire agreed with Scott and McCarthy's assessment, calling it "essentially identical" to the 1971 big-screen version. "Mere classism seems to be the source of conflict" in Lurie's version, she writes, "with a touch of xenophobia" unlike Peckinpah's version, which "had social context on its side." But, Lemire gave the thriller credit. It "is undeniably suspenseful, thick with menace from the very beginning," she writes.