Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey

THE grow­ing schism be­tween the US’S east and west coast elites and mid­dle Amer­ica, as expressed by Hol­ly­wood, is an in­trigu­ing thing to watch. When even an apo­lit­i­cal Pixar film such as Toy Story 3 gives its vil­lain­ous teddy bear an ob­vi­ous south­ern ac­cent, clearly some­thing is go­ing on.

A num­ber of re­cent re­leases have lam­pooned mid­dle Amer­ica’s at­trac­tion to Chris­tian­ity. Sal­va­tion Boule­vard (M, Sony, 92 min, $32.99) as­sem­bles a cast in­clud­ing many of DVD Let­ter­box’s favourites — Jen­nifer Con­nelly, Ed Har­ris, Marisa Tomei, Greg Kin­n­ear, Pierce Bros­nan — but it isn’t as po­tent as Kevin Smith’s re­cent Red State.

Ge­orge Ratliff’s satire based on the book of the same name by Larry Bein­hart takes cheap shots about evan­ge­lism and jumps around with in­con­sis­tent plot points, un­con­vinc­ing ac­tion and few laughs. All it has its some fun per­for­mances.

Rod Lurie’s re-imag­in­ing of Sam Peck­in­pah’s Straw Dogs (R, Sony, 105 min, $29.99) has more go­ing for it, although why one would bother to re­make the trans­gres­sive 1971 film star­ring Su­san Ge­orge and Dustin Hoffman in an era when we’re so in­ured to on­screen vi­o­lence re­mains un­clear. Lurie, a for­mer film critic now mak­ing smart po­lit­i­cal films in­clud­ing The Con­tender and Noth­ing But the Truth, has per­haps greater right to tackle the sub­ject than most. He trans­plants Peck­in­pah’s cou­ple from an English back­wa­ter to a Mis­sis­sippi town where the lo­cals em­brace the re­turn of their high­school sweet­heart turned ac­tress Amy (Kate Bos­worth) but not so much her fey writer hus­band David (James Mars­den).

The new film is largely faith­ful to the old and re­mains a no­table ex­er­cise in dis­cussing sex­ual vi­o­lence, jus­tice and man­hood rather than what it was mar­keted as: an al­lur­ing thriller. If that makes this Straw Dogs sound ‘‘im­por­tant’’, it’s not. It’s of­ten ob­vi­ous and verges on the gothic. So not a great film, but a no­table cu­rios­ity amid film­mak­ing’s some­times sneer­ing as­sess­ment of its au­di­ence. Then again, what pro­por­tion of this film’s au­di­ence rev­els in its thrills and misses what Lurie in­tended: a med­i­ta­tion on sex­ual pol­i­tics, cul­tural di­vides and as­sess­ing Peck­in­pah in a mod­ern con­text?

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