"Lurid, Politically Correct Subtext"
What You Need To Know:
The original STRAW DOGS has always seemed a little cold and unbelievable to some of MOVIEGUIDE®’s staff, so it’s surprising how riveting the STRAW DOGS remake is. Sadly, however, the new movie has heightened most but not all of the basic story’s more lurid events. That includes more foul language and a subplot about the former coach’s rebellious teenager daughter. There’s also some politically correct content. All the bad guys in STRAW DOGS are churchgoing, violent white Southern bullies.
(HH, AbAb, PCPC, C, B, LLL, VVV, SSS, NN, AAA, D, MM) Strong, almost but not quite propagandistic (especially in a way that’s not over-the-top), humanist worldview about a clash between an atheist-leaning intellectual’s ultimately politically correct battle against some villainous, churchgoing, apparently hypocritical white Southern bullies, but not all the Christian references are negative and movie seems to show that the atheist-leaning hero is not always right; at least 99 obscenities (including many “f” words), 22 strong profanities and five light profanities; mostly extreme violence includes two deer shot to death by hunters though shots are not depicted penetrating animatronic stand-ins for deer, hanged cat’s corpse found, two men shot in chest, man’s head caught in broken window and his bled-out, expired head is shown later, man’s foot shot, 16-year-old girl suffocates to death when frightened mentally handicapped man tries to quiet her by putting his hand over her mouth, man throws scalding water on one home invader, bear trap used in gruesome manner, men attack people’s home, man sets fire to barn, people set fire to curtain but man puts fire out, men throw rocks, men drive truck into home, men set fire to expensive car so it explodes, drunken man gets angry in bar and breaks glass full of beer, and football action; very salacious depicted sex scene where ex-boyfriend rapes young married woman, ex-boyfriend does nothing while it’s implied his friend whose own wife is pregnant comes in and rapes woman too, 16-year-old girl kisses and tries to seduce mentally handicapped man, working men leer at woman jogging, and to get revenge on working men jogging woman partially undresses in window then closes shutters; very brief rear female nudity during flashback of rape scene, obscured partial rear female nudity during depicted rape scene, outline of woman’s breasts can be seen while she’s sweating during jogging along country road and when she returns home, and woman almost undresses before working men but closes shutters before she really undresses; alcohol use and extreme scenes of violent drunkenness; smoking; and, jealousy, harassment, uncontrolled anger, tension between married couple, home invasion, man uses the word “retard” a couple times, bullying, and man starts to seem to take delight in revenge against bullies.
STRAW DOGS is a 2011 remake of a violent, lurid 1971 movie by Sam Peckinpah.
The story’s setting has been moved from rural Scotland to a small rural town in Mississippi, Blackwater, where Friday night high school football is king. Instead of a meek American mathematician and his beautiful English wife, a Hollywood screenwriter, David, and his beautiful wife, Amy, an actress, have moved to Blackwater to fix up and sell her father’s home and barn. While they’re doing that, David will take advantage of the time and quiet to write his new screenplay about the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II.
On entering the town, Amy and David stop at the local bar and grill to eat. At the bar, while ordering a beer, David almost gets involved in a fight between the drunken, violent foul-mouthed former football coach and the bartender, who’s trying to cut the man off. The coach gets violently upset when the bartender and the sheriff try to calm him down.
It’s during this extended scene that viewers learn that Amy was the popular cheerleader in high school, and her boyfriend was the big football star, a strapping young man named Charlie. Charlie is also in the bar at the time and comes over to talk. Unfortunately, David makes the mistake of hiring Charlie and his three best friends and former teammates to fix the roof of the barn at the farmhouse.
Charlie is clearly jealous that this wimpy intellectual from the West Coast has snagged the girl of his dreams. While Charlie and his friends fix the roof, Amy begins to resent the way Charlie and his friends leer at her. She’s also unhappy about how they take advantage of her husband. So, in one scene, without David’s knowledge, she teases Charlie and his friends to show them they can’t have what David’s got.
Then, one day while David and Amy are away, their white cat is killed and hung in the closet. Amy suspects Charlie and his friends, but David’s afraid to confront them without evidence. He pities them because they used to be treated like revered Chinese, ceremonial straw dogs during their football days but have now been tossed aside because they’re no longer needed.
Instead, David decides to appease Charlie and his friends, and eventually bring up the cat’s murder at the same time, by taking up their invitation to go deer hunting with them. During the hunt, however, they abandon David in the woods. Then, as David lines up his own shot of a marvelous antlered buck, Charlie shows up at the farmhouse and rapes Amy. When Charlie’s finished, his friend Norm suddenly shows up and rapes her too, without Charlie doing anything to stop him.
Amy is too ashamed to mention what happened to David. After being abandoned by Charlie and his friends, who didn’t tell him it’s not hunting season, David decides he has to fire them and pay them off. Charlie agrees, but not before he bullies David into paying him far more than the work they’ve done so far.
Things start coming to a head at the first Friday night football game when the violent former coach’s teenage daughter, Janice, deliberately goes off with a local mentally handicapped man, Jeremy. The coach repeatedly had warned Jeremy to stay away from Janice, but she apparently sees this as an opportunity to rebel against her father and his violent temper.
[SPOILERS FOLLOW] The father goes searching for the two in the gym and locker room facilities, where the daughter has taken Jeremy. Hearing the father call out his daughter’s name, Jeremy places his hand over the girl’s mouth to keep her quiet. He doesn’t realize his own strength, however. The more Janice struggles, the harder Jeremy presses against her face, until she apparently suffocates to death.
Meanwhile, in the football stands, Amy is having flashbacks of the rape scene. Seeing she’s visibly upset for some reason, David takes her home in her father’s old car. While driving down the road, Jeremy suddenly runs out into the street and David smacks him with his car. David stops the car and rushes to Jeremy. He finds Jeremy still alive but with a bloody broken arm. He and Amy decide to take him to their house and call for an ambulance.
The coach learns about the emergency call. He enlists Charlie and his friends to go to the farmhouse and bully David into releasing Jeremy into their custody so they can find out where the coach’s daughter is. Knowing the coach’s violent temper, and the anger between himself and the other men, David refuses. This, of course, results in total violent mayhem, with David feeling that he’s not only protecting Jeremy, he’s also defending his home.
The original STRAW DOGS has always seemed a little cold and unbelievable to some of MOVIEGUIDE®’s staff, so it’s surprising how riveting the STRAW DOGS remake is. Sadly, however, the new movie has heightened most of the basic story’s more lurid events, though, thankfully, the rape scene is slightly toned down. Also, although it could be argued that the new movie is, whether intentionally or unintentionally, a story about the inherent sinfulness in man, the new STRAW DOGS tells an ultimately politically correct story of seduction, rape, teenage sexuality, murder, and extreme violence. There’s also far more foul language in the new movie than there was in the first one. Furthermore, the underage teenage cheerleader lures the adult mentally handicapped guy so she can introduce him to sex.
Ultimately, the combination of all this lurid, disturbing content is abhorrent. Also, although the movie’s political correctness isn’t completely propagandistic or played in a didactic manner, it’s definitely annoying and mindless. For example, the villains are all macho white Southern males who love football and hunting. Of course, the good sheriff happens to be black, and a war hero to boot. Finally, in a church scene, the Southern pastor is a somewhat, though not entirely, liberal cliché of what such a pastor would be. Then, when David becomes bored by the Sunday service and walks out, it’s the jealous and clearly messed up Charlie who points out to David that what he did was really rude. It’s also Charlie who attacks David’s brief statements that he doesn’t believe in God and is uncomfortable with religious beliefs and practices. Charlie’s lines would have been more positive if they had come from Amy or the black sheriff than one of the bad guys. Thus, while the anti-religious and anti-Christian content here is implicit rather than explicit, it seems to fit very well within the movie’s politically correct attitudes about Southern culture.
In the end, therefore, STRAW DOGS encourages viewers to side with the atheist-leaning liberal intellectual against the churchgoing, violent, hypocritical white Southern bullies. To be fair, it does seem that the movie sides with Charlie when he tells David he was rude for walking out in the middle of the pastor’s sermon. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. The other good thing in this mix is that it becomes clear during the Friday night game that even the atheist-leaning intellectual can enjoy a rousing game of American football.