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Straw Dogs

Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Dreary Southern stereotypes and grotesque, by-rote violence devalue "Straw Dogs" (Screen Gems), a pointless remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah film.

The setting in this version (also an adaptation of the novel "The Siege of Trencher's Farm"), directed and written by Rod Lurie, has been moved from England to deepest Mississippi. David Sumner, the pacifist played by Dustin Hoffman at the center of the original, is now an amiable Beverly Hills screenwriter played by James Marsden.

Sumner and actress wife Amy (Kate Bosworth), recently the star of a TV series, move to her old family home in Blackwater, Miss., so that he can work on a screenplay about the Battle of Stalingrad in World War II. Blackwater is filled with leering drunks with short fuses, and the couple hires Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), Chris (Billy Lush). Norman (Rhys Coiro) and Bic (Drew Powell) to repair their barn roof. Charlie is Amy's embittered high school sweetheart, resentful of her success and her marriage.

All of this sets the stage for her sexual assault by Charlie and Norman and a hyperviolent extended showdown when Tom Heddon (James Woods), the surly high school football coach, finds that the Sumners are concealing Jeremy (Dominic Purcell), a slow-witted boy his teenage daughter, Janice (Willa Holland), has been pursuing. He and the four roofing boys speed to the house on a pickup truck, and the only question after that is how long it will take for David to "man up" and take them on.

The original film's violence, shocking for its time, was intended to make a statement about what pacifists, or really any person at all, can become when reverting to primitive urges to defend their territory. This version is more like "Deliverance" without the banjo music.

The film contains two violent rapes, implied upper female nudity, frequent sexual banter, gun violence, pervasive gore, pervasive rough and crude language and fleeting profanity. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R —restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service

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<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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