Movie Review: By Ben Boquist
First and foremost, it should be said that Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard are more photogenic than anyone has the right to be. And there is plenty of them to see in writer/ director Rod Surie’s adaptation of the 1971 cult classic Straw Dogs. And now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the film…
Straw Dogs tells the story of Amy and David, James Marsden and Kate Bosworth, a young Hollywood couple who move to a town in the American Deep South. The two leave California to sell Amy’s family home after her father passes away. The town welcomes Amy, who moved away to become an actress, as a returning hero. But David (a leftist intellectual screenwriter) is out of his element in the small conservative community. The locals, an unfortunately stereotypical group of beer drinking, uneducated bible thumpers, view David with thinly veiled contempt.
Trying to make friends, David hires Amy’s ex boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his Cronies to help fix up their house. Gradually, Charlie’s easy going charm gives way to manipulation and violence as he and David vie for dominance and for Amy.
Movie goers expecting torture porn may be disappointed. While the film does deliver a bloody, violent finish, most of the horror here is psychological. And Skarsgård is terrifying as the manipulative “good ol’ boy.” Charlie’s alpha male-ness is all about restraint and cunning. Even at his most despicable, he never raises his voice.
SPOILER ALERT: This is especially harrowing in the film’s infamous rape scene, during which Skarsgård is eerily tender.
Bosworth is equally good as the conflicted and vulnerable Amy. Her frustration, fear and anguish are deeply felt. Her joy and contentment are less so, which causes the first half of the movie to lag a bit.
Marsden is adequate as David, but only adequate. Even when he becomes the film’s hero, it’s hard to like him. To be fair, the script gives him little to work with. When Amy confides that Charlie and the boys are ogling her, he merely shrugs (“Maybe you should wear a bra.”)
But criticism aside, this is an exciting movie. Thrill seekers will enjoy it for it’s violence, and cinephiles will find plenty to explore in it’s depth of characters and themes. Clocking in at a a brisk 110 minutes, this is an exciting ride and one worth the price of it’s ticket.