In 1971, a filmmaker named Sam Peckinpah scared the living daylights out of people and generated a great deal of controversy with his “ultra-realistic” depiction of violence. His movie was called Straw Dogs, and it starred Dustin Hoffman as a timid husband who has to fight back in order to protect his young wife from marauding neighborhood thugs. This was the grandfather of brutal geek revenge flicks. And they even borrowed some of its nastier tricks for Home Alone.
Now because everyone knows violence sells, they’ve gone and remade Straw Dogs – and it’s opening in theaters today. Only instead of Dustin Hoffman we have James Marsden, and as the wife we have Kate Bosworth. The setting too has changed – instead of the rural English countryside we get the Deep South, although they’re saying the plot is virtually the same. Couple moves into town, bitter thugs meet and harass them, husband is relatively passive, until of course things get really, really bad. And someone has to take action who’d rather not. This will be popular among young men. An added bonus here (more for the young men’s dates, actually) is the presence of True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgard in the role of Alpha Marauding Thug.
Moving on, Ryan Gosling couldn’t earn a bad piece of press if he held a writer at gunpoint. He’s just that charismatic, that talented, and that appealing right now. Plus, he fits into that perfect ideal where gals want him and guys want to be like him. No one feels threatened. Unless you’re one of the bad guys in Drive, Gosling’s latest thriller. Then, of course, you’re in trouble, because RG stars as a professional stunt driver with nerves of steel, ultra-steady hands, and zero compassion. Add to this the considerable charms of Hollywood/UK “It” girls, Carey Mulligan. Infuse this with plenty of one of American cinema’s great sacred cows, Albert Brooks. And voila!- you’ve got an extremely popular film. In addition to its excellent word of mouth, Drive will probably be very successful at the box office, and it’ll only garner Gosling even more Steve McQueen comparisons.
Now I love Sarah Jessica Parker and Sex and The City as much as the next girl, and I love a romantic comedy about well, almost anything. Especially set in my favorite major urban center on earth, New York City. Greg Kinnear has great comic chops and Pierce Brosnan’s got that steely-magnate thing down beautifully. So why then does I Don’t Know How She Does It look – from the trailers at least – a little flat? Is it simply because the film’s title implies that someone’s doing something much, much more skillfully than the rest of us? Maybe that’s it – the whole aspirational thing. Which borders on boasting. Then again, maybe SJP isn’t quite right for the part – perhaps it should be someone more awkward/ordinary. And that’s coming from me, who’s always liked her and actually watched Did You Hear About The Morgans? straight through til the closing credits. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll see this one, but maybe not right away.
So you get revenge, automobile-oriented revenge, and miraculous mums this weekend at the movies. Let us know what you see and what you think.
1) I Don’t Know How She Does It
3) Straw Dogs