Two films, one about to open, the other still on the drawing board.
Both bad ideas.
Do we really want to see Tom Hanks (white, middle-aged, righteous) battle Somali pirates (black, young, fanatical) in an announced high-seas docudrama that graphs “Black Hawk Down” to “Cast Away”? If Spike Lee hasn’t already spoken out against this project as a potential minefield of Third World stereotypes, stay tuned.
In 1971, when we were still in Vietnam, Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs” tapped into something dark and primordial, the lengths to which an ordinary man will go to guard hearth and home … the bloodlust that’s in each of us, whether we want to own up to it or not.
Not surprisingly, “Bloody” Sam was then reading Robert Ardrey’s “Territorial Imperative,” which, for the director, answered questions about why one man shoots another when he steps over a boundary line.
If the trailer for his long-delayed September release is any indication, Rod Lurie is attempting to goose his stalled feature career with a baldly cathartic home-invasion thriller a la “Last House on the Left” and “Cape Fear.” Peckinpah’s rite of passage, whether you bought into it or not (I didn’t), was deeply personal, as much self-justification as self-analysis. Lurie’s updated “re-imagining” smacks of crass commercialism.
While the basic situation and signature battle cry (“I will not allow violence against this house!”) remain intact, Lurie and company have made a number of telling changes. In the original, Hoffman’s David Sumner is a mathematician on sabbatical in Cornwall, England, at its most foreboding. Hoffman, no one’s idea of a classically handsome leading man, made perfect sense. His Sumner was fussy, nattering, preoccupied. The remake takes place in Shreveport, Louisiana, thereby forfeiting much of the stranger-in-a-strange land paranoia. (The novel, “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm,” hinges on British resentment of brash, know-it-all Yanks.) Marsden’s Sumner, besides being a conventional pretty boy, is a struggling screenwriter. (Like the one who came up with that profession?)
British sex kitten George was cast to type as Amy: trashy, dumb, insatiable ‒ every brainiac’s wet dream. As filmed by Peckinpah, the rape scene devolved into consensual seduction, thereby igniting feminist protest and setting a new standard for screen misogyny.
Bosworth looks to be an improvement. Let’s hope Lurie has been sensitive enough to let her screams of “No!” mean no.
Somehow, given its exploitation trappings, I doubt that this remake will rise to the challenge.