Straw Dogs (18)

Starring: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth

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The Independent Culture

Forty years after Sam Peckinpah's home-invasion thriller prompted howls of outrage, Straw Dogs gets a remake that is, amazingly, very impressive.

Amazing because a) it wasn't that great in the first place, and b) sexual politics have moved on notably since 1971. Relocating from the original's Cornwall to the Southern backwoods, post-Katrina, it stars Kate Bosworth as a returning native and James Marsden as her new husband. They're outsiders from the off – she's a TV actress, he's a screenwriter – in a town whose priorities are God, beer and hunting, not necessarily in that order. The director Rod Lurie plots the build-up of class tension and sexual menace with nice restraint, pitting a bunch of redneck roofers against the affluent out-of-towners, one of the good ole boys being Bosworth's ex (Alexander Skarsgård) for good measure. The crisis of masculinity afflicting the protagonist of Peckinpah's film (Dustin Hoffman was a speccy mathematician) is taken on, and actually improved, in Marsden's creditable performance, while Bosworth fares infinitely better than poor Susan George. An unnecessary remake – most of them are – but not short of subtlety or excitement.