Written and directed by Rod Lurie, Straw Dogs follows married couple David (James Marsden) and Amy (Kate Bosworth) as they’re menaced by a group of small-town hicks shortly after moving into Amy’s childhood home. It’s clear instantly that Straw Dogs has been cut from as familiar and hackneyed a cloth as one could possibly envision, as filmmaker Lurie delivers a consistently predictable and by-the-numbers narrative that’s compounded by an ongoing emphasis on eye-rollingly stale stereotypes – with the dynamic between David and the aforementioned hicks certainly the most obvious and oppressive example of this (ie the locals, led by Alexander Skarsgård’s Charlie, are uniformly portrayed as ignorant, aggressive louts). There’s subsequently never a point at which one is even remotely drawn into the deliberately-paced narrative, and it’s worth noting, too, that the action-packed climax is just as tedious and interminable a slog as everything preceding it (although, having said that, it’s impossible not to get a kick out of a violent, bear-trap-related death). The end result is as bottom-of-the-barrel and misbegotten an endeavor as one can easily recall, which is surprising, certainly, given the otherwise mostly-solid nature of Lurie’s output.
1/2* out of ****