So this is all Trent Reznor’s fault. I wasn’t going to see STRAW DOGS theatrically. I’d seen the trailers and could perceive the stank of doom from afar. I was going to catch it on DVD or BLU… but there was no need to burn fossil fuels for an ill conceived travesty of talent. Then I got an email from Trent Reznor asking that I please go to the press screening of STRAW DOGS, that he and David Fincher wanted me to see something unusual that they had planned.
SO… I was hoping that they were planning a bait & switch screening – and that they would surprise everyone by playing THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO as a public test screening. Seriously. That’s what I was hoping. Instead, we got 8 minutes that promise one helluva film.
However, after 8 minutes of Fincher-y awesome… and a remake at that… I was now trapped in a theater… I was already there… Might as well see it, perhaps it would surprise me. Ya know? Like, why the fuck not. I like the actors right? Yeah. Rod Lurie hasn’t always sucked, right? Right.
Right from the get go… We’ve pretty much all agreed that the casting on this film is just whackadoodle. To understand the successful dynamic that made the original work. James Marsden’s DAVID SUMNER is a jackass pussy Liberal Atheist Hollywood Screenwriter played by an Ex-Superhero Hunk come Comedian Actor, that I genuinely like… and it’s the actor’s pure charisma that made enduring the film actually palatable. But not only is he wrong for the role, but the role has been turned into something so painfully trite. Casting a superhero for DAVID SUMNER instantly diffuses the awesome that Hoffman unleashed in the original 3rd act. We know Marsden can kick ass. He’s built. The man that plays David has to be someone utterly non-threatening. Someone you can’t really imagine being a badass… like… Jason Schwartzman. There’s something about Hoffman in the role that makes it inconceivable that he could EXPLODE. That is completely missing from the remake. Instead, we get some bullshit about how he's writing a screenplay based upon the Battle of Stalingrad - where we learn that the NAZIS had taken 90% of the City and the Ruskies still beat them. Thus FORESHADOWING that this man was an expert on underdog hopeless battles, lest we think CYCLOPS couldn't handle himself.
Then there’s Kate Bosworth. I like Kate Bosworth, I’m not one of the haters on her. I liked her in BLUE CRUSH & Singer’s Superman. But here… they’ve gone and turned Amy Sumner into a young starlet. Which just kinda blows. But the main problem with Kate Bosworth is that she doesn’t look like she likes to fuck. She’s cute. She’s sweet. But Susan George… Susan George was SENSUAL. Susan George’s Amy was sexual. You really saw the history between her and her ex. You felt that there was a part of her that didn’t WANT IT, but that remembered it and remembered it well. Now – I know that this isn’t necessarily Kate’s fault, but Rod Lurie as director, because in WONDERLAND and RULES OF ATTRACTION – Kate looked primed. But here… she just isn’t sexual. The Chess piece scene in this version makes the Animal Crackers in ARMAGEDDON seem like Bertolucci.
The last colossal fuck up of casting was with Alexander Skarsgard. An actor, like the two above, that I am very fond of. Skarsgard is preternaturally hot. He is a modern sex symbol because of his role on TRUE BLOOD – and casting a sex symbol as your rapist – is just… It turns the scene into potential fantasy material… which is just fucking gross. Skarsgard just feels wrong in a film that is just wrong headed at every turn.
Lurie’s SOUTH is woefully stereotypical. Feeling like a man that has only seen the South in bad straight to video movies. James Woods feels like he came out of Oliver Stone’s JFK set. They transformed the “simple man” that is the impetus for the 3rd Act siege… into LENNY from OF MICE & MEN, but don’t think about that brilliant performance from Lon Chaney Jr. Take all the soul from the character and just cast that type. Woods’ daughter has been cast as a beautiful underage cheerleader… which completely robs the point of her character as feeling like no man would touch her, and transforms her into something of a disturbing slutty type.
You know what’s so offensively wrong with the film? It isn’t the wrongheaded casting, nor the real cookie cutter South bullshit that Lurie infuses it. It’s that they tried to make STRAW DOGS a sexy film. STRAW DOGS is not sexy. STRAW DOGS is the exact opposite of sexy. It is an ugly brutal film – and Lurie makes it light. He robs the film of its resonance. Instead, audiences end up with a film that isn’t ugly or hurtful, other than in the ham-fisted way it treats EVERY SITUATION FLIPPANTLY – almost with a slight wink. Our audience giggled at the rape, which turned my stomach, and they guffawed at the bear trap.
This is a film to miss. It’s just a total load of shit.
Lurie is so fucking stupid, that even though David Sumner is no longer a mathematician, he still does the Jump Rope line about counting to a hundred in BINARY… In the original, the line is fun because you might actually believe that Hoffman did jump rope in binary. Then – they basically have a house that they live in that looks like it should be IRELAND, but definitely not in the South.
THE CONTENDER was a solid damn fine film. I like THE LAST CASTLE. But this? I can’t imagine a single critic liking. This is so bad, that I’m actually worried that I’ll never be able to watch the original, without getting pissing mad about this version as I watch it. That Lurie was a fucking damn fine critic, but then make a remake of a classic tough as hell, brutal masterpiece from Peckinpah – and then show zero understanding of the material at every single turn. It makes me want to just dismiss him as a filmmaker, because this movie sucked so hard.
Fuck this movie.
I saw FOOTLOOSE again tonight and as I watched Craig Brewer’s movie, I just marveled at the South he created. It is… frankly, dead on right. Craig gets it. Craig is deeply passionate about his film. Lurie “jokes” about hoping he didn’t muck it up too badly in his tone-deaf commentary for the original STRAW DOGS trailer on TRAILERS FROM HELL. Well Lurie, you mucked it up so badly, that you lost a fan. I’ll see your next one, but I’ll be going into it wishing I didn’t have to. Especially since it seems you’re mining similar material. For fuck’s sake, get it right this time.
Remaking a film is like the ultimate act of Film Criticism. Because every decision you make, is essentially either repeating the original or moving away from it. In STRAW DOGS’ case – it just shows how far Lurie is from being a shitball hanging from a grey ass hair in the crack of Peckinpah’s shitter. This could’ve been a master thesis type of film by Lurie, instead… it’s a lifeless dead waste of time. Spend your money instead picking up STRAW DOGS on Blu Ray. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.