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Rod Lurie
James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, James Woods , Dominic Purcell, Rhys Coiro, Billy Lush, Laz Alonso
Writing Credits:
Rod Lurie, David Zelag Goodman (earlier screenplay), Sam Peckinpah (earlier screenplay), Gordon Williams (novel, "The Siege of Trencher's Farm")

Don't let them in.

A young couple (James Marsden and Kate Bosworth) moves to a quaint southern town. Soon their perfect getaway turns out to become a living hell when dark secrets and lethal passions spiral out of control. Trapped by a pack of depraved locals led by a ruthless predator (Alexander Skarsgard), they face a night of agonizing suffering and endless bloodshed. Now their only hope for survival is to become more savage than their merciless torturers. Also starring two-time Academy Award® Nominee James Woods.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$5.123 million on 2408 screens.
Domestic Gross
$10.324 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 110 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 12/20/2011

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rod Lurie
• “Courting a Controversy: Remaking a Classic” Featurette
• “The Dynamics of Power: The Ensemble” Featurette
• “Inside the Siege: The Ultimate Showdown” Featurette
• “Creating the Sumner House: The Production Design” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Straw Dogs [Blu-Ray] (2011)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 20, 2011)

Is it ever a bright idea to remake a highly-regarded movie? Maybe, but I think it usually seems more logical to rework bad flicks with the potential for improvement. If you take on a good film, you leave yourself little room to go anywhere but down. How can you top the original Psycho? You can’t. At best, you can hope to make something that’s good in its own right.

While I don’t think 1971’s Straw Dogs quite reaches “classic” territory, it’s a strong movie and not one that seemed ripe for remaking. That didn’t stop writer/director Rod Lurie and company, as they decided to give the 40-year-old property a go via this 2011 version.

At the start of Dogs, we meet Hollywood screenwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth). The pair have recently relocated to the Mississippi town in which she grew up, and we see their interactions with locals. We quickly meet Charlie Venner (Alexander Skarsgård), an old lover of Amy’s who seems intent on rekindling that sexual fling.

We also encounter former high school football coach Tom Heddon (James Woods) – now a local mean drunk - and others like Bic (Drew Powell), Chris (Billy Lush) and Norman (Rhys Coiro), the guys who’re working on the Sumner home along with Venner. Other characters include simple-minded Jeremy Niles (Dominic Purcell) and Hedden’s precociously sexy daughter Janice (Willa Holland); the latter tends to pay attention to Jeremy mostly to aggravate her father, as the Coach forbids contact between the two.

It’s clear that David doesn’t think much of the “redneck” population and that the feeling is mutual. In particular, there’s an obvious issue among Amy, David and Charlie, as the fact Amy and Charlie dated as teens creates a subtext that bothers David. The film follows the escalation of tension as this leads toward one fateful night in which the locals lay siege to the Sumner home.

To some degree, I think it’s unfair to compare a remake to the original, as I’d prefer to view the update on its own terms. However, that’s really only possible if you’ve never seen the first take; if you’ve watched the 1971 Dogs, you’ll find it tough to resist comparisons.

On its own, I think the 2011 Dogs is a competent film, but it seems more sluggish and neutered when viewed against the original. Some of that’s intentional, as Lurie lacks director Sam Peckinpah’s “dog eat dog” worldview; both use their movies to express philosophical viewpoints, and Lurie’s is much rosier than Peckinpah’s.

This doesn’t mean the 2011 flick is happy ‘n’ sunny, but it doesn’t pack the same gritty punch. From its very start, the 1971 film featured an undercurrent of tension that doesn’t materialize as well here. In the original, not only did we see David vs. the locals, but also we viewed clear issues between husband and wife.

The remake softens the former and mostly eliminates the latter. Sure, we see confrontations between David and the townsfolk, but they’re not as charged, and the Amy/David relationship lacks the general disconnect found in the original. When they fight, it’s due to specific topics, not a basic relationship problem.

On their own, these changes aren’t bad. Indeed, one could say they make the 2011 Dogs more well-rounded than the 1971 version, as the locals aren’t quite as one-dimensional, and Amy/David seem better matched; we understand their partnership more clearly than we did in 1971.

However, the 2011 flick’s more balanced feel eliminates a lot of the sense of dread found in the original. That one starts tense and just ratchets up those feelings bit by bit as it proceeds until it reaches a climax that’s truly climactic. The 2011 edition simply doesn’t come across like a story that’s going anywhere in specific. It kind of meanders as it develops the characters and lacks the slow burn that made the original so effective.

The remake also tends to telegraph its notions more obviously. This one specifically tells us the meaning of the title in a nearly patronizing sequence, and it also uses David’s attempts to write a screenplay about the World War II Battle of Stalingrad as a metaphor so obvious Lurie almost apologizes for it in his commentary. These mean the remake seems a little “dumbed down”, like it doesn’t trust the viewer to discern themes without this kind of spoonfeeding.

Ultimately, the 1971 Straw Dogs felt like a film with something to say sociologically while the 2011 remake acts more as a standard thriller. It tames the original’s more controversial elements and lacks the same bite. While it still boasts some decent action and tension, it doesn’t compare with the original.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Straw Dogs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a pretty solid presentation.

Sharpness usually seemed strong. Some wide shots looked a little soft – like those at the church - but the majority of the flick demonstrated good delineation. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. Source flaws also didn’t create any distractions, as the flick lacked defects.

The flick featured a fairly amber-oriented tone, though it tended to go colder and bluer at times. Within those parameters, the colors seemed fine. A few brighter tones occasionally emerged and the hues were depicted well. Blacks were dense and dark, while shadows came across as smooth and clear. Except for the occasional softness, I felt pleased with the picture.

While not a slam-bang mix, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Straw Dogs provided reasonably vivid accompaniment to the action. The soundfield created a good sense of atmosphere. Music offered nice stereo delineation, and the effects formed a feeling of place and setting.

Some scenes such as those with cars or hunting opened up the room in a decent manner, but the majority of the soundscape’s most involving material revolved around the climax. That extended sequences made nice use of all the channels and moved things about the spectrum well. Those scenes added the most power to the package.

Audio quality was good. Speech always remained crisp and concise, while music fared well. The score sounded rich and full at all times. Effects seemed accurate and dynamic, and they boasted nice low-end response when necessary. I felt this qualified as a “B” soundtrack that neared “B+” territory due to the activity during the climax.

With that we shift to the disc’s extras. These start with an audio commentary from writer/director Rod Lurie. He delivers a running, screen-specific look at the adaptation of the original and changes for the remake, cast and performances, story and characters, sets and locations, why he chose to remake Straw Dogs and his goals for this version.

Expect a pretty interesting and passionate chat here. Clearly Lurie’s prepared to take on those who don’t think he should’ve remade a well-regarded film, so he addresses that topic quite a lot. He does this well and digs into a variety of other areas in this engaging, compelling piece.

Note that a few mild-moderate gaps occur, and I have to think that these pop up because Lurie made remarks that were deemed as problematic in some way. Lurie’s so chatty that it’s hard to believe that he ran out of anything to say.

Four featurettes follow. Courting a Controversy: Remaking a Classic goes for seven minutes, 41 seconds and includes notes from producer Marc Frydman, executive producer Beau Marks, and actors James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Drew Powell, and Alexander Skarsgård. “Courting” looks at changes made from the original film and various updates. Lurie already covers this topic during the commentary, so the featurette feels a bit redundant. However, the program adds different perspectives so it’s worth a look.

Next comes the six-minute, 20-second The Dynamics of Power: The Ensemble. It features Marsden, Bosworth, Skarsgård, Powell, and actors Billy Lush and James Woods. This one looks at cast, characters and performances. A few decent notes emerge here, but the show’s a bit on the fluffy side.

Inside the Siege: The Ultimate Showdown lasts seven minutes, 29 seconds and provides info from Frydman, Lurie and Marks. They discuss the shoot of the climactic action scene, with an emphasis on areas like effects and stunts. Like the other featurettes, this one feels somewhat light, but it delivers a mix of decent notes.

Finally, Creating the Sumner House: The Production Design goes for four minutes, nine seconds and includes details from Marks, Lurie, production designer Tony Fanning, art director John Goldsmith, and director of photography Alik Sakharov. They cover sets, locations and visual design. Despite the piece’s brevity, it includes some nice material and is probably the “meatiest” of the four featurettes.

The disc opens with ads for Colombiana, Attack the Block, Hostel Part III and Drive. These also appear under Previews along with clips for Retreat and . No ad for Dogs appears here.

Although I don’t view the 2011 Straw Dogs as a bad film, it does seem fairly pointless. The ways it alters the 1971 original tend to neuter it and make it less effective. It still has some decent value as a standard thriller, but it lacks the same punch to the gut as the first one. The Blu-ray comes with good picture and audio as well as a set of supplements highlighted by a strong audio commentary. The remake’s worth a look as a curiosity but it’s not a memorable film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5312 Stars Number of Votes: 32
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