LOS ANGELES, CA — Not too often does a new movie release cause audiences to stand up and cheer after experiencing a contrasting, emotional period of highs and lows.
But on Saturday, at a movie theatre in Marina del Rey, the penetrating renovation of director Sam Peckinpah’s Oscar-nominated 1971 “Straw Dogs” did just that — exceedingly so.
Moviegoers shouted at the screen. Many applauded.
The 2011 remake, helmed by film critic-turned-director Rod Lurie, actualizes conflict in a realistic opening sequence that reminds viewers why award-winning film, television and stage actor James Woods chooses to star in such critically-acclaimed films.
The moment Woods’ character speaks and performs in this Mississippi-rooted film, viewers are clutched by the jaws of authenticity that won’t let go for the movie’s durative running time of 110 minutes.
Woods portrays a bigoted former high school football coach with some serious anger management issues. His colorful and layered portrait of those who continue to perpetuate intolerance of any ideas other than their own — especially on religion, politics, culture and congenital predisposition — is right on.
Woods shares screen time with lead actor and protagonist James Mardsen, best known for the “X-Men” franchise.
Mardsen plays a quiet and peaceful screenwriter who is introduced to the archaic, yet evergreen, lifestyle of some residents of the Deep South who still enjoy grouping God, guns and wicked behavioral patterns into the same narrow-minded bundle of reasoning and glory.
Mardsen’s alter has his hands full with a coquettish wife — played with exhuberant clarity by actress and model Kate Bosworth — whose trifling decisions to seek attention may have been the impetus for a series of violent acts, including a brutal rape and sodomy.
The decision to cast Swedish-born actor Alexander Skarsgård in the role of the lead antagonist was a smart move.
Skarsgård’s portrayal of the multi-dimensional and well-layered bullish ex-boyfriend is delivered to an impressive degree of proficiency, from his superb acting skills to his well-accomplished southern dialect.
The breathtaking display of opulent cinematography creates not only a juxtaposition, but a generational pattern of time that connects the not-so-distant past with the present.
“Straw Dogs” is a lesson to be learned about how some threatened subdivisions of biology remain prey and considered pieces of meat in many aspects of society for no other reasons than sport, retaliation or just plain sickness.
These animals could be human, wildlife or domestic.
This film, replete with haunting, disturbing scenes, should be seen by mature viewers and considered an educational tool for filmmakers and students of the behaviorial sciences.
“Straw Dogs” is not a slasher film.
It is a fine, intelligent contribution to cinema that hits modern-day societal issues where it hurts.
“Straw Dogs” was executive produced by Gilbert Dumontet and Beau Marks (“Predator,” “The Hunt for Red October”).
The movie was distributed domestically by Screen Gems, internationally by Sony Pictures.
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