And he's off ladies and gentlemen...
For this treat I'm going to tackle the remake of Sam Peckinpah's “Straw Dog's”.
Having studied all of Sam's films there's a whole mixed bag of fighting cats going on here that I could comment on as to why or why not the new release will or won't work, why or not I'll agree with the production. So getting to it, let's just say I'll try to be concise & stick to the point.
For one, Hollywood is full of wannabe production assholes that just want to make money, so the value of the remake is completely lost on them, thus to comment much further would be a loss. Only other than to say, 25+ years after Sam's death & actually having the film sporting the weight of "a Sam Peckinpah Film”, that actually carried some weight at one time. Which now apparently that the copyrights have lapsed from the original holders, this merits a remake “and” a remake of “The Killer Elite” (I'll be pre-reviewing that one too a little later); who's to say 'what' at this point in time or “who” actually earned the credit of this reprise.
Not knowing anything of the current director of the remake, I make no comment of their intentions on the story. Anything is simply unkind, unjust and simply mean. Comedians make a living at snap judgments and glossed over facts, I make mine after having been attacked.
Even though Sam's dead and I've had nothing to go on but a bunch of probably bad press and conjecture of a bunch of his equally drunken buddies, I figure what the hell, here's what I got from his films and the history of the US at that period of time.
“Straw Dogs” is the story about a young, professional couple starting out their lives together in a less than tolerant township. Things are quiet enough at first, but simple confrontations of sexual harassment with the wife (originally played by Susan George) soon escalate into escapades out of control. After several attempts by the affluent husband (originally played by Dustin Hoffman) to passive-aggressively assert his authority into the community; he & his wife are attacked by several members of the young toughs of the township. No one including law enforcement is willing to help the couple which causes the once honest and passive husband to become an unholy nightmare that Satan himself couldn't conceive in order to protect he & his wife.
Now as with my last pre-reviews some of you folks may think this is another romp through why I hate remakes. Not exactly. And I might also take a moment to ask that you nuzzle up to my nut sack too, but that would be unkind as well... No, what I wanted to do here & probably as a hint for the “The Killer Elite” pre-review is give some “hints and hurts” at what Hollywood's doing to remakes and how they might be killing some good movies of old.
Will “Straw Dogs” do good? With me, I'm going to have to give it a ball-less neutral. I've seen the trailer... it was done well... I was sold and will definitely see it.
Pitting it against the original movie... I won't do THAT. I refuse to “pit” one against the other. As I stated in the “Fright Night” blog each movie is made to their own order. Just like your steak.
Such is the emotion, history, ethics and mind frame in which the whole project was being conceived and produced. Sam Peckinpah's “Straw Dogs” was being done while we were smack dab in the middle of Vietnam. College aged students were titty & asshole fucking in the streets, smoking dope, questioning everything (even when there wasn't time to, despite safety issues), disobeying the law even when it was protecting them and EVERYONE on his crew had been in the military.
It wasn't “everyone's” attitude at the time, so don't get your collective panties in a bind. It was just one of many attitudes that some folks had. You'll either have to remember (or understand), the draft was still going on, most folks were still under a collective thought or 'conditioning' and what that does to your mental faculties. So our society was still trying to break free of 'thinking inside a box'. Sam & some of his guys “may” have been of a mind set that you needed to 'earn the right' to even get out of the box, much less think. It was simply the time period.
Sam was also one of the first directors to depict violence in films as being a very despicable thing. Not only did he have grotesque bullet wounds depicted on his actors, but he also had their deaths slowed in a “dance macabre” to allow it to linger in the viewer's head. Basically as if to say, “This shit isn't fun and games.” Or as Tom Savini would later go on to say in his book the “Grand Illusion” that death is not glamorous & how he got tired of it being portrayed that way in Hollywood as a kid. Nothing was more true as when he got to Vietnam & served as a combat photographer (my job as well). When he got back to the US he became a make-up FX artist & did his best to do effects that depicted similar horrors as those he saw in the combat theater.
This is also to say I don't think Sam Peckinpah was trying to bring war home to the US. His generation already knew what that was & he didn't think we needed reminding. I think he saw men within society that knew more about war & violence than the men that said they were there. It's these guys that wanted to be left alone and make their way & try to regain what was left of their life & humanity before it too is gone.
These were the stories he was interested in. So Sam tells a story using society and it's ugly motifs as the catalysts for bringing these poor guys back into their primal animal instincts and prove once again that 'yes', they indeed tried to leave the ugliness behind. To bring you up to their level; but you didn't want to rise to that occasion. So instead you not only celebrated his ability to lower himself to your level, but wailed to all the deities that won't have you for the monster you have created when he reached out to destroy you.
A lot of Sam's movies were also of a theme that people simply “weren't going to take it any more”. Not that he was the only one doing it. Clint Eastwood left the western productions in lieu of the Dirty Harry films. Charles Bronson's “Death Wish”, “The Magnificent Seven” and a few other westerns also shared in a popular 'populace downtrodden' feel of the time. But I'm kind of hinting more toward a singular or 'couples' approach to the ostracized group. An 'evil many' against the 'righteous few'. Not a Rambo or Cobra Ki here, none of that shit, but I think you're getting the picture.
Now I told you all of that to tell you all of this:
Remakes of this type run dangerously close of turning what was almost a work of art (and yeah, get over it, back then they really were one step from being that) into being an action packed torture porn.
I like a good revenge flick, don't get me wrong. Make the bad guys bad. Just don't make the bad guys so bad that you want them gutted so fast as to REALLY want them out of your sight!!! Kind of like being so hyper balls excited, striped assed ape shit wigged about this bug floating around your head that you think it's going to bite you that you swing a ball bat wildly around the house hitting everything it lands on in hopes of killing the damn thing, JUST so you hope you get rid of the damn thing? You know, That kind of bad guy? It makes the movie impossible to sit through. Then when the hero gets hold of the bad guy & goes to torture his ass likes he deserves it you don't want to see his come-up-ance. You're like, “just kill his ass...” He's such a sick-ass, just do him in... It's bad movie karma.
However, I'm all for bitch-karma. After several judicial sodomization trips myself I'm frankly in the mood for Hollywood to treat me to a visual massage that would best reflect my mental state of being right now. But will they do it? Like in Sam's time, is Hollywood reflecting a mind frame reminiscent of the popular consensus or are we being spoon fed again? Are we going to see lawyers actually run down the street with their testicles set on fire? I don't want to see them, hands cuffed, with their heads bowed down like a limp prick with the idea of vindication. No no, I want the judge seated at his damn desk liquored up at trial, then we see smoke, smell bacon & shit burning and 'then' realize it's his asshole burning. I want Hollywood to start delivering its audiences up true vindication again like it used to.
Will "Straw Dogs" - 2011 actually deliver?
James Marsden will play the male lead in place of Dustin Hoffman this time as will Kate Bosworth for Susan George. Other than the original being set and filmed in England, this version will be set here in the US southern states region. Always a wonderful place to stir up contempt don't you think Hollywood? Anyway, as best as I can tell, only a slight bit of character change will be put in place. A bit of metro-sexual will be introduced to James' character, while a bit more ball-breaking “I guess I don't care for the double-standard anymore” treatment gets added to Kate's character as apposed to the tired old damsel in distress.
From what I've already gathered, individuals who chose to take a more Rhodes Scholar approach to writing than I have (and also seem to have much more access to the film), for the meantime indicate that the rest/bulk of the film is leaning toward honoring the original in as much of it's glory as humanly possible. But then seeing as Battleplan Productions is a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Distribution, I'll allow you to draw whatever positive or negative conclusions you wish from there.
Grinding this nut further into dust, does it mean this film will be a success? Hell, I really don't know. Most films coming from an established market are always a tough sell and then to come from what was an artistic market on top of that? I consider this playing with fire. Sam Peckinpah was not a commercial director. His name was not one you put next to Spielberg or Lucas. So if I were to say remaking one of his films is blasphemous some people would initially take my words the wrong way too (like I'm a different kind of fucking weirdo).
Personally? Sure, redo the movie. Give it another name and lather it up a bit more. “Straw Dogs” and it's director are synonymous with another time and convention. One that was done behind a line I'm not exactly comfortable crossing and one that Hollywood should have been kicked in the balls repeatedly for having knowingly crossed. I mean some folks would say it's garbage to redo a Hitchcock film, but none of those movies were defining a people or society either.
And until I/we get some interviews (some real ones, not some studio induced bullshit) with production folks and earlier works as well, we're never going to know what the motivation behind this movie is. Which begs the line, “They don't make them like they used to...”
Yet, I'm still very eager to see this rendition.