I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again: just because I want to have sex with Alexander Skarsgård does not mean I’m gay. For those of you who have seen the movie already you know what a terrible opening line that is to set the tone for a review of this movie. Still, it needed to be said. You’ll recognize Skarsgård as Charlie, the main antagonist of Straw Dogs as well as the tall, handsome, psychopathic, Swedish vampire from the popular HBO series True Blood. Playing opposite him in the movie as the main protagonist, David Sumner, is the always good-looking James Marsden whose career seems to span across the entire genre gamut from movies like Hop and Enchanted to the X-Men series and now Straw Dogs.
To put it simply, David and Charlie don’t care for each other. You see, Charlie used to have sex with Amy, the woman who David is currently married to and having sex with. Amy (played by Kate Bosworth) has returned to Black Water, Mississippi, her home town, after a successful stint on a semi-successful television show where she met her screenwriter husband, David. She is returning because her father has just died and she needs to take care of his crap, I guess, so they just move into the old house while David completes his screenplay about Stalingrad, which is, of course, a metaphor for the events of this movie. Or at least, the last twenty minutes of the movie. Those of you who are expecting a straight forward horror movie will be disappointed. Those of you who expected a well-crafted story with deep characters and dramatic events including an unsettling rape scene will enjoy this movie. By the way, I’m not really spoiling anything about the rape scene, am I? When I saw this trailer my first thought was so how many of those guys rape that girl?
Nah, nothing about this says rape at all…
I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. The main characters all seem to have very good chemistry together and all of the characters felt real. The town itself became a very dynamic setting where everyone seemed to know everyone except for James Marsden, who didn’t know anyone. I had never heard of Rod Lurie, who wrote and directed the movie, but I enjoyed his take on the film and plan to look out for his other movies in the future. It is based, of course, on the 1971 original by Sam Peckinpah and is considered to be pretty faithful to the original despite the fact that the original took place in Cornwall, England and the main character was a mathematician; which makes me wonder if Stalingrad was even a metaphor in the original at all. I’m willing to bet the metaphor was Fermat’s theorem (Fermat of course being the famous mathematician whose wife was often accosted by old boyfriends).
Taking place in a small town in Mississippi, I was able to relate to a good deal of this movie as I am from the South myself. Of course, I live in North Carolina which is like the third least intimidating Southern state behind Virginia and Florida, meaning we have fewer backwoods nut jobs than Mississippi does.
One of my favorite scenes in this movie is the rape scene. Now, before you start jumping to conclusions and calling me a sociopath and calling all of your friends in North Carolina and telling them to lock their doors, hear me out. If you have not seen or even read anything about this movie you might want to skip a couple sentences, but I won’t be too revealing, I promise. The scene is well crafted, but incredibly unsettling. Charlie and his crew have lured David out of his house and into the woods for a hunting trip where you are sure they are going to “accidentally” shoot him. While daddy is out, though, men go to his house to play a special game with mommy (no they don’t have children; I just wanted to make this extra creepy for you). During “the deed,” the movie cuts back and forth between thrusts and David holding his phallic rifle. Just when the rapist is coming, you guessed it, David shoots a deer.
“Dude, I’m totally gonna rape this deer. Why does it feel so distasteful?”
For whatever reason, this image amused the hell out of me and so I immediately felt awful and am seeing a psychiatrist. Also because, according to Hollywood, every small town in the south has at least one retarded giant who doesn’t know his own strength, Black Water has Jeremy Niles who is the main character of the movie’s sub-plot…
Yes, this picture means that I blame John Steinbeck
…and here’s where I start to pull away. The reason for the siege of the old farmhouse during the last twenty minutes of this movie was not what I was expecting, which is fine because what I expected was stupid. This isn’t that much better, though. When I first saw the trailer my thought was oh, those guys are trying to get into that house so they can all rape that chick. In fact, the reason for it is because those guys plus the town’s old football coach (played by James Woods) are trying to get big, slow, Jeremy Niles who is in their house being protected. The old coach, who is loud, violent, drunk, and easy to anger, is looking for his missing daughter and he thinks Jeremy knows where she is, because he hates Jeremy and Jeremy has had some kind of vague history with young girls.
Anyway, that subplot catches up to the main plot and it leads to the end when all of these guys try to get into the house to get Jeremy. The coming together of the plots just felt really forced to me, though, because David has next to no contact with Jeremy throughout the film and neither does any of Charlie’s friends really. I get that it’s supposed to be that David is finally taking a stand against these guys who have been walking all over him the whole movie but it doesn’t make much sense to me that he would want to protect this guy so violently. I also expected Amy to be far less useless in siege. I guess that was just sexist thinking; God forbid women stand up and fight to protect their house, too.
Oh Kate Bosworth, what are we going to do with you? Remember Blue Crush? You shouldn’t. In this movie, ol’ Bosy is OK and has some decent chemistry with both the male leads, especially in the beginning. And I’ll admit that when she flashes the guys working on the barn, I was hoping the camera would linger a couple seconds longer, but that’s hardly a basis for a good performance. Well, for most people anyway. That should actually be a new Oscars category. Malin Akerman would win like every year; she’s naked in everything.
This was at her mom’s birthday dinner.
Anyway, I digress. Maybe my complaints are more about the character than her but I found her annoying and pretty much useless towards the end of the movie. Her character is about the same as every other character she has ever played. I’m just not a big Bosy fan but the movie didn’t suffer too badly from her presence as much as it probably did from her character.
This movie is worth a viewing. If you want to wait until you can watch it for cheaper on DVD then that is probably a good idea. The original done by Sam Peckinpah was a controversial movie and rated X. The violence here, I believe, does him proud, although it is mostly in the final twenty minutes. The subplot seemed forced into the main plot at the end but it did give the main characters a reason to kill some rednecks, which is always good. In conclusion, for those of you looking forward to the violence in this movie, I just have two words for you: Bear Trap.
Bonus Drinking Game
Shoot at full beers with hunting rifles while drinking beers. If you hit one, drink a beer, if you miss one, drink a beer. Don’t stop until someone gets hurt.