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'Straw Dogs' Review: Hollywood Vs. The South in Pointless Remake


Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 “Straw Dogs” is a movie that cries out not to be remade. Even as an international movement for women’s rights and revaluation was beginning to build (Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch” had been published the year before), Peckinpah determined to make a case for male primacy and female insufficiency. His picture didn’t just argue that a man must be prepared to use force in defense of his home and his woman (who can’t be counted on in such a situation); it also asserted that only in such violence can he discover his true nature as a man. In the movie’s most famous scene, a woman is brutally raped and halfway enjoys it: In the view of Peckinpah, who co-wrote the script, she was a tease who had been asking for it anyway.


Although hailed for its technical skill, the movie was also widely reviled at the time. Critic Pauline Kael, a Peckinpah champion, deplored the film’s “sexual fascism.” Peckinpah, she said, had “discovered the territorial imperative and wants to spread the Neanderthal word.”

It’s no surprise that in undertaking to remake Straw Dogs, director Rod Lurie realized that there was no way this story was going to fly today without some key adjustments. Unfortunately, these have further muddied Peckinpah’s already murky motivational waters. …

The director also bathes the story with a familiar Hollywood condescension about small-town Southerners and the guns, religion, and manly sports to which they so pathetically cling. At one point, a burly lout even snipes at David about “that global warming you educated guys keep talkin’ about.” This tendentious point-scoring is tiresome in the usual Tinseltown way.

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