"Unruly locals and bloody revenge are commonplace in modern thrillers, which means the impact of Straw Dogs 2011 is lessened by a genre already drowning in rednecks and violence. The beauty of the original was that by setting it in rural England, even the thought of simmering menace felt out of place. By switching the setting to America, the filmmakers have saddled themselves with an all too familiar set up that feels watered down in comparison to modern day shockers, even compared to the original - which was fleshier in every sense of the word.
Having said that, the focus on character and underlying tension (much like the original) is admirable, and watching a movie that doesn’t feel the need to compensate with excess carnage is actually quite refreshing. The slow tease is commendable, supported by a strong cast and polished direction. For those of you who don’t know the story, a young couple move to a quaint southern town and their perfect getaway becomes a living hell when dark secrets and lethal passions spiral out of control. James Marsden (not a patch on Hoffman) stars alongside Kate Bosworth (strong), ruthless predator Alexander Skarsgard (reliably meaty), and two-time Academy Award Nominee James Woods (excellent as the alcoholic ex-football team coach). Not to mention Dominic Purcell, who seems to be in just about everything these days.
Clearly Rod Lurie (The Last Castle) has a lot of respect for the source material and Straw Dogs is noteworthy not for its sensationalism or for its moral ambiguity, but for strong performances and a refusal to conform to modern day excess. As a remake of a classic, Straw Dogs doesn’t get a lot wrong. Marsden is a little too pretty for the role that Hoffman made so memorable, but he’s still a weakling, and his self-doubt as the film progresses is well handled. Other small changes are made to bring it up to date, but for the most part it plays like a shot for shot remake.
The question of course is surely this: In a world where bloody retribution is commonplace, will the lukewarm reality of Straw Dogs 2011 quench the thirst of modern horror enthusiasts? It might not live up to the original, but ignore the haters, Straw Dogs 2011 is one of the better remakes to surface, and for that we should be grateful." AW