3/5 Everyone has a breaking point… or so reads the tagline for Rod Lurie’s remake of the controversial 1971 film, Straw Dogs. For those who have seen the original, the new movie provides deeper character development and a modern approach to a familiar story; for those who haven’t seen it, Straw Dogs is an engrossing hybrid of drama and action.

David and Amy Sumner, a happy yuppie couple from L.A., relocate to Amy’s deep-South hometown of Blackwater—or “back-water,” as she jests—to move into her rustic childhood home, where he plans to write a screenplay and she plans to take a sabbatical. His first experience, a visit to the local watering hole, where all of the town’s characters seem to converge, turns into a jarring experience thanks to the resident drunk, “Coach” Tom Heddon. Escaping startled but unharmed, the two Californians finally reach the pastoral peace of Amy’s old house, they ease into a relaxed rural lifestyle, but it is quickly disrupted by Charlie and his boisterous posse’s construction project. The Sumners’ hopes for a tranquil country-retreat quickly deteriorate at the hands of Charlie and company, who seem intent on harassing the pair into ruin and running them out of town; the bullies push every possible button and cross every conceivable line, all while hiding behind Charlie’s easy smile and silver tongue. David meekly challenges each escalating violation with impotent response and cowardly under-reaction until Amy’s frustration, inevitably, exceeds her tolerance. In an intensely destructive denouement, the unbearable tension between tormentor and victim explodes in a blaze of violence.

Writer-director Rod Lurie, exercises his right to reinterpret liberally, and, in a wholesale rejection of the original’s chauvinistic overtone, transforms the story of The Siege of Trencher’s Farm—the novel on which it’s based—into an entertaining drama and contemporary thriller. The movie as a work completely independent of its predecessor, succeeds in several key areas—namely, the acting, writing, and action-cinematography—but fails in others—like sound-editing and dramatic-cinematography. Though the new film recycles a significant portion of the 1971 script and all of its themes, it aspires to be original by thoroughly remodeling several of its key characters and modernizing its context. The most extensive overhauls are the fresh interpretation of Amy, and the heightened complexity of Charlie Venner; the heroine and the villain, skillfully played by Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush, 21) and Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, Generation Kill) respectively, take on pivotal roles, combined, overshadowing James Marsden’s for screen-time and importance. Frailty, irrationality, and an irritating womanish disposition in the first Amy are replaced, in Bosworth, by fortitude, shrewdness, and a decidedly bold personality—a fact repeatedly highlighted by the self-referential, “she didn’t have enough lines” comment. Skarsgård, as well, portrays a completely new Charlie who redeems the previously depth-less and, frankly, implausible antagonist; the real strength of his performance lies in the adept portrayal of Charlie’s tumultuous but subtle emotions and unspoken inner-thoughts. James Wood delivers a laudable supporting performance as the angry drunkard, “Coach” Tom Heddon, who plays a crucial role as the catalyst

For better or worse, Lurie’s modernization of Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs  is palatable, even enjoyable; the reason for their stark contrast is a conglomeration of several factors: the conspicuous omission of graphic nudity, the considerable dilution of intense and explicit scenes, the modern audience’s propensity for gore and violence, and the privy viewer’s anticipation for more vicious images. Despite specific artistic failures, Straw Dogs is altogether an invigorating and worthwhile cinematic experience.