Straw Dogs review (DVD)

This anaemic remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic is really not worth your time. See the original again instead – it's so much better. The unsettling atmosphere of cold Cornwall has now been transplanted to the very sunny and far less intimidating American Deep South

Dustin Hoffman was well cast as the meek mathematician who finally takes a violent stand against his vicious marauders. Marsden here is a Hollywood screenwriter holed up in his wife's hometown retreat. He sports spectacles but looks too muscular and healthy too convincingly portray the weakness of the character. He's dull, too.

In the original, Susan George played Hoffman's slutty young wife with just the right mixture of sexuality, flirtatiousness and fear. The controversial rape scene was all the more disturbing because she gets turned on by it. Here Bosworth tries hard, but she simply isn't sexy. The rape scene is retained but generates far less heat. The same can be said for her performance. It's workmanlike, but she never oozes the unbridled carnality the role requires. The malevolent nasties of Peckinpah's original, led by the brutish Del Henney and Ken Hutchinson, were memorably fearsome. Here it's a bunch of unfrightening rednecks with clean looking Skarsgard in charge. They're not very creepy.

The action erupts in the final 15 minutes. Woods and his cronies lay siege to Marsden and Bosworth's abode with the writer summoning up the courage to defend his home. The same methods are used but the climax elicits little suspense. Lurie's sluggishly paced remake follows the original tale closely but is bereft of the power and audacity of Peckinpah's film. The 1971 movie is rivetting. This by-the-numbers retread is bloodless and boring, a formulaic studio effort devoid of personality. Avoid.

EXTRAS ★★½ For some reason, the film on DVD is about five minutes shorter than the same film on Blu-ray. Hmmm. As for the extras, there's an audio commentary with writer/director Lurie; and four featurettes – Courting Controversy: Remaking a Classic; The Dynamics of Power: The Ensemble; Inside the Siege: The Ultimate Showdown; and Creating the Summer House: The Production Design.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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