There are a lot of remakes out there that never should’ve happened; however, “Straw Dogs” won’t fall under that category. Although in its new incarnation it will not get the classic status that the original 1971 version had, this pulpier take poses a strong argument for existing.
The story of “Straw Dogs” itself is clever enough to make up for marginal acting. James Marsden and Kate Bosworth play sinewy Hollywood expats renovating a house in the wife’s hometown of Blackwater, Miss. As the couple’s very un-Southern ways grate on the locals, something sinister begins to encroach on their marriage.
Moving the story from a British village to the Deep South was the best direction to take an Americanized version of the story. As James Marsden’s character explains, the term straw dogs comes from an ancient Chinese practice of using ceremonial dogs made out of straw, which are treated with great reverence when used as offerings to the gods, but are thrown away once their purpose has been fulfilled. The analogy fits seamlessly in the setting of good old boys, who once the pride of the town as high school football stars, are left in their later years to lead unremarkable lives.
The first third of the film is a forcefully applied testament of the couple’s love for each other, complete with a chess game that involves a pawn placed somewhere in Bosworth’s underfed ladyparts. They seem so boldly stupid, but then James Woods comes in, as the old local football coach-slash-drunk and he so ravenously chews the scenery that the lovely couple you first met become likable by comparison.