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?