Kernel Rating (out of 5):
Length: 110 minutes
MPAA Rating: R “for strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language”
Age Appropriate for: over 18. It’s Rated R with a capital, bold R. Let’s put it this way: they had to tone down one of the rape scenes to avoid an X rating. Do you want your children of any age to see it as a parent? Absolutely not. There’s blood, more blood, murder, multiple rapes, grisly animal killings, you name it? It’s in this film and it’s violent.
If you love violence, you’ll love this film.
By Mary McCarthy, Editor
Straw Dogs director/screenwriter Rod Lurie hates women. And minorities, hillbillies and the handicapped. Also, religion and animals. He loves only two things, really: turning screenwriter geek characters into action film superhero types, and violence.
Lots and lots of violence. Seriously. The more blood and protruding bones and screaming and chaos and death methods, the better.
Straw Dogs is a remake of a 1970s film of the same name starring Dustin Hoffman. The film was controversial in its day for its use of violence. You’d think here in the next century we’d be more accustomed to it- but the depth of violence in this film makes it shocking even by today’s standards.
The plot is simple: a screenwriter husband (James Marsden) and his B-level actress wife (Kate Bosworth) return to her Blackwater Mississippi hometown, where she was once a cheerleader. Their plans to fix up her childhood home are thwarted by a vile gaggle of rednecks, the leader of whom is her ex-boyfriend football player (True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård). The locals don’t like the outsiders, and so begins a bloody, modern West Side Story deal where everyone hates everyone and eventually most people end up dead in grisly ways.
It’s not a horror film, but it’s full of horror. And did I mention the violence?
Performance wise: my sister-in-law was happy to be accompanying me to the screening because “the eye candy alone makes it worth seeing.” She has a point. We definitely had a ‘James Marsden vs. Alexander Skarsgård– who’s hotter?’ discussion. I had never really crushed on James Marsden- I thought he seemed kinda wussie-ish in Enchanted, but he had me at Harvard Lacrosse shirt and nerd glasses in this one. He is great in the role. Skarsgård, while completely hot, is a bit flat emotionally and definitely doesn’t look the part of small-town hillbilly. Bosworth is bland. Her character needed more depth- some skilled acting could have made up for the fact that the scriptwriter treats women like meat.
The best performance in the film is delivered by James Woods as the drunk, violent (surprise!) high school football coach. Once I got past my his-voice-is-Hades-from-Hercules thing, I enjoyed the power his acting convincingly brought.
You even start to feel sorry for rednecks. Their lines (“It’s the South; we know our cars and guns!”, “We only take cash- it’s what poor people use for money!”), clothing, passion for hunting and high school football and ‘Bud not Bud Light’, etc are so cliché that I can’t believe real rednecks wouldn’t actually become offended at their portrayal.
But by far the most offensive thing in the film, in my opinion (and there are SO MANY from which to choose) is the rape scene. After jogging in no bra and flashing her breasts to the roofers, Bosworth’s character has her cat strangled and then she’s raped by her ex. Beyond disturbing is that halfway through the rape scene, she starts looking like she’s enjoying it. I could hear in my head the collective screams of feminists and rape victim advocates from around the globe. (News flash, Lurie! They could get away with women portrayed this way in the 70s, but not today!) Her character unfortunately has literally no redeeming qualities, and there are very few other women in the film (the teenage girl ends up getting accidentally strangled by the mentally challenged guy after she tries to have sexual relations with him).
I’m not sure who the audience for this film is supposed to be, but I am guessing I would dislike them as much as I did this film.