Lurie remaking “Dogs”

Rod Lurie‘s intention to remake Sam Peckinpah‘s 1971 classic Straw Dogs is perhaps the most inspired idea he’s ever had as far as movie-directing material is concerned. Lurie is a bit of a tough guy and a man’s man (as anachronistic as that may sound), and I’m betting that he understands better than most what makes the original Dogs a great (certainly a near-great) work.

The story, based on a book called “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm,” strikes all kinds of primal macho chords, all of them tethered to the territorial imperative (i.e., the defense of one’s wife and home, and the small-town repelling of exotic invaders). I know that I’ve never felt so aroused and “with” the violence in any film as I have with Peckinpah’s original, which costars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George .

At the very least Lurie’s effort will inspire everyone to re-watch and re-assess the original, which is the second or third-best Peckinpah film ever made (after The Wild Bunch and Ride The High Country). The downside, of course, is that Lurie is asking for trouble. The odds are not overwhelming that he’s going to out-point or out-gun Peckinpah’s version (it being so perfectly cast, so beautifully edited, so full of ominous vibes). Lurie might be able to match the original, but any director would have a difficult time making a better film. But I respect Lurie’s courage in deciding to do it anyway.

44 thoughts on “Lurie remaking “Dogs”

  1. This is a terrible idea. Rod Lurie is a mediocre director tackling a remake of a fantastic film made by a master. There is absolutely no way he will make a movie that is even half as good as the original so what’s the point? And how is it courageous to take on a surely losing battle? Isn’t that like saying you respect George W. Bush’s courage for sending our troops to Iraq? In both cases, it’s idiotic to even try to win a losing battle.

    I really wish they would leave the classics alone and stop remaking good films. They should remake the bad ones and make them better. And by the way, who are they going to get to play the Hoffman part? They’ll have to get someone bankable. They’ll probably wind up getting Tobey Maguire or someone like that…ughhhh, this is the worst (movie-related) news ever.

  2. “I’ve never felt so aroused and “with” the violence in any film as I have with Peckinpah’s original, which costars Dustin Hoffman and Susan George.”

    Really? Even though the movie makes it clear that Hoffman’s character is overcompensating for his damaged masculinity and is a thorough nerd? As with all of Peckinpah’s movies the violence here is not meant to be something one-sided to root for but rather something complicated and ambivalent.

    Lurie’s movies that I’ve seen (Deterrence and The Contender) have shown that he can work with actors but that his visual sense is very flat and stagy. Togh for him to outshoot one of the masters of kinetic camerawork and editing.

  3. This is my favorite Peckinpah movie and I hope it doesn’t happen. I know Ed Norton was interested in this project and he wouldn’t be half-bad but the original is so damn good and just needs to be seen, not re-made.

    I liked Deterrence and The Contender, but no thanks.

  4. jeffmcm wrote:

    Lurie’s movies that I’ve seen (Deterrence and The Contender) have shown that he can work with actors but that his visual sense is very flat and stagy. Togh for him to outshoot one of the masters of kinetic camerawork and editing.

    THE LAST CASTLE (with Redford and Gandolfini)is pretty much forgotten now, but it was an improvement in terms of visuals and other filmmaking niceties over THE CONTENDER. Most of LAST CASTLE’s deficiencies lay in the script.

  5. THE LAST CASTLE (with Redford and Gandolfini)is pretty much forgotten now

    Yep – I remember that I saw it, and that it had Redford. Forgot it had Gandolfini and just about everything else about it….

    Also, like jeffmcm said, Peckinpah’s film was an indictment of David, not a celebration of him.

  6. I don’t think Lurie is a bad director, but I do find his films to be rather forgettable, and I think he may be out of his league taking on this film which is very strong.

    A crazy idea: why not look for NEW material that allows you to deal with these themes?

  7. Here we go again. I haven’t seen any of Lurie’s previous films, so why start now and ruin my perfect record?

    (Judging from the remarks above, he sounds like a John Sayles type — a guy who records plays with a camera rather than a guy who makes movies. I like plays. In fact, I think I’ll go see Kathleen Turner in Virginia Wolfe. But Bloody Sam most definitely made movies.)

    I think someone should remake Red Dragon again. It’s been — what — three years? Or maybe a new Dracula. That’s what the world needs.

    Has anyone else read the script that’s been floating around for Rob Zombie’s Halloween? Can you guess whether it sucks or not?

  8. “A crazy idea: why not look for NEW material that allows you to deal with these themes?”

    movie man, you’re clearly not hip to the hollywood brand strategy that posits that nothing can be made unless it references something else…

    and pauline kael did call STRAW DOGS a “fascist” work of art…

  9. Let’s not forget “Straw Dogs” has a famous sex scene where the wife half-enjoys being raped by another man (or was my impression when I saw it).

    Peckinpah, like so many other great “macho” directors, has a real disdain for women in his movies. Can’t say that’ll go down real well in today’s PC world. Of course, that’s his main thing, NOT being PC. Not caring about different impressions from different groups.

    We’ll see if this actually gets made or not. I think Straw Dogs as a solid movie, but it’s not great or masterpiece by any means

  10. As soon as Lurie says he’s “reimagining the original story and not remaking Peckinpah’s film”, I will lose whatever tiny amount of interest I have in this project.

    Did anyone else ever listen to his radio show on KABC 8 or 9 years ago?

  11. I love Straw Dogs. Peckinpah is the man when it comes to exploring a man’s breaking point. And it really has one hell of an ambiguous “rape” scene. Has anyone read Ebert’s review? He really dislikes Hoffman’s character to begin with and especially hates how a bunch of men can be driven into such a self-destructive frenzy by getting drunk.

  12. Jeff – no love for ‘Alfredo Garcia’ or ‘Iron Cross’? Those are the two that really turned me on to Peckinpah, moreso than the (IMO) over-rated ‘Wild Bunch’ (perhaps fairer to say it hasn’t aged well) or ‘Pat Garrett’. Or ‘Straw Dogs’, for that matter.

    ‘Ride the High Country’ was a pretty good one, though. A little too much of an old-fashioned western sometimes, but it has a lot of brilliant subtle touches that became over-done in his later works.

    Oh, and Rod Lurie is terrible. I wouldn’t even say he’s good with actors, I thought he directed a terrible performance out of both Gary Oldman and James Gandolfini.

  13. I just hope Lurie has the balls to make the same two major changes in the plot of the original book that Peckinpah did — changes that actually make it less easy for you to root for David Sumner (Hoffman’s character). But I fear he’ll get pressured to “soften” the material.

  14. It’s Peckinpah’s third-best. But on DVD and a bigscreen TV, you can see Susan George’s teeth in unendurable detail. British dentistry: that’s the real violence here.

  15. Noah, first up, wrote: “This is a terrible idea. Rod Lurie is a mediocre director tackling a remake of a fantastic film made by a master.”

    What the hell else is there to say about the stupidity of this project????????

    Yes, Noah, this is about a bunch of people getting a bunch of paychecks and that’s the only good that will come out of it.

    We can however address other points that have been raised here.

    1) The rape by “another man” that appears to be enjoyed is actually sex with a man that the character had previously had a sexual realtionship with. THEN she is attacked by ANOTHER man after that and she clearly does NOT enjoy it and it is presented as a violent horrific violation.

    2) Regarding Ms. Kael’s “fascist” comment, Sam had a wonderful retort which was something like, “I like Kael and she’s usually very sharp, but this time she’s cracking walnuts in her ass.”

    3) One last time, can’t anyone just listen to the words of the late John Huston? “NO NO NO!!! You don’t remake the great ones, remake the BAD ones!!!”

    4) Is there any way to insure that Oliver Stone NEVER gets the chance to remake “The Third Man” as has often been reported?

    5) For the record, I do like the idea of “The Wild Bunch” (#1 Western of all time in my book) remake as it’s not a remake at all, but rather a completely new movie, set in the contemporary world of Mexican drug smuggling. In the right hands, using “Wild” as a leaping off point for that kind of story, it could really rock.

  16. CONVOY & THE GETAWAY … Rob Lurie has an interesting writing style where he has the script end with a true penultimate twist, thus a double twist ending … STRAW DOGS remake: Ed Norton, Sienna Miller & Mackenzie Crook as the retard …

  17. With the PC culture today, how will he possibly be able to remake the rape scene and have it play with even close to the same impact of the original? I really like Lurie’s work, but that scene goes so completely against what most consider acceptable, with the wife’s partial, conflicted enjoyment of the rape (at least until the second man joins in), that he will be hard pressed to film a working scene. If he has the guts to go for it, and that is a big if, he will get blasted and pressured by any studio to tone it down. Peckinpah’s scene is just about the only rape scene that even remotely attempts to turn on the audience (yes it does) and also the rape victim. Be interesting to see his attempt though.

  18. As soon as Lurie says he’s “reimagining the original story and not remaking Peckinpah’s film”, I will lose whatever tiny amount of interest I have in this project.

    Did anyone else ever listen to his radio show on KABC 8 or 9 years ago?

  19. Crossing the Bridge – one of the most underrated “coming of age” movies ever, no joke. Had no idea you did that one, Mike. Props.

  20. i’d completely forgotten about ‘crossing the bridge’….binder, you were so good back then….(sorry, just couldn’t resist..but, really…’crossing’ was a treat..)

  21. In terms of Lurie’s TV series, I do remember the early, more interesting episodes of COMMANDER IN CHIEF before it became MOR (upon Bochco taking over the showrunning), but didn’t see the FBI/Mob one with David Paymer. Anyone see the latter show and, if so, how was the quality?

  22. ” For the record, I do like the idea of “The Wild Bunch” (#1 Western of all time in my book) remake as it’s not a remake at all, but rather a completely new movie, set in the contemporary world of Mexican drug smuggling. In the right hands, using “Wild” as a leaping off point for that kind of story, it could really rock.”

    then there’s no point in calling it THE WILD BUNCH or considering it a remake…

    STRAW DOGS is so mired in 70′s cultural tropes and peckinpah’s savage vision that a remake just seems unneccessary. leave it be.

    and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is a masterpiece that uses peckinpah’s best and worst nature into a symbolic whole.

    imho it’s his best film.

  23. Egh. I just don’t know.

    Lurie obviously has the chops, but he hasn’t been able to make a solid film yet that he doesn’t half-drown to death with heavy-handed messageering (looking at YOU, “The Contender.”) and “Straw Dogs” could turn into an AWFUL “topical message movie” soooo easily it’s genuinely frightening.

    Seriously, Mr. Lurie (or anyone who can “get” to him) in the slight possibility that you’re reading this, please let me offer the following: One of the most crucial “layers” to the original film is to make the male a stranger in strange land, (i.e. a Yank in Britain,) in addition to the more basic overall setup of him being an urbanite intellectual in a rural community. It’s what makes the conflict universal instead of overly specific. What I’m driving at is this: If it has AT ALL entered your mind to do a version of this that’s entirely American set – where the “city” couple just moves to the midwest or south – and turn it into a “topical” Red State vs. Blue State allegory with the urbanite hero having to fend off a 3rd Act seige by eeeeevil grunting NRA/militia type psychos… please, by the gods, DON’T DO IT.

  24. christian: there’s a part of me that KNOWS ride is sam’s best film. but then, damnit, in all its twistiness and knotiness and madness and heart, soul, excess, blood and beauty, i have only have eyes for the wild bunch.

    then rationality sets back in and i’m nodding in agreement with you about ride. i saw ride in cannes a couple of years ago with a young international crowd and wow, it played. i think it was time mag that reported the head of toronto as saying ride was “the best film in the festival” that year, even though it was 40 years old.

  25. I can’t believe a film purist like Jeff thinks this is actually a good idea. This is a HORRIBLE idea; in fact, it’s a losing proposition for Lurie. There is no earthly way that he will be able to outdo Peckinpah. Besides, “Straw Dogs” has been ripped off so many times already…Wasn’t that Reese/Wahlberg movie “Fear” just a teen version of “Straw Dogs”? Hell, any horror film where people barricade themselves inside a bar/house, or what-have-you (“Signs” anyone?) is just yet another SD variation. So how can Lurie possibly think he has a new angle on this material? It’s already been done. And being a former critic, Lurie must know that the critics are going to come after him BIG TIME. The arrogance to think one can remake a movie like “Straw Dogs” is jaw-dropping, Tex Avery-style. This is yet another sterling and depressing example of the intellectual bankruptcy of modern Hollywood. Say what you will about Binder, and I know he has his critics on this board, but at least he writes ORIGINAL FILMS.

  26. i agree dobbsy. RTHC works great at theaters today — last time i saw it was at the alamo…sigh…

    the brothel wedding scene is the height of peckinpah savagery constrained by sense and taste and the interplay between the leads are filled with moral complexities with a rousing western ending with one of the greatest final shots in movie history.

    and check out warren oates intro shot…wow!

    oh, and lurie has a big package.

  27. That was YOU??? That was Joe Leydon?Crossing the Bridge?? Jesus CHRIST!!! (stompiing foot, kicking in corner, pouting, mumble swearing.) God damn it all to hell with these people!!!!!

    Yeah.. Lurie’s huge. No shit.

  28. Getting back to STRAW DOGS itself: a key point no one has mentioned is that the first rape is committed by one of Susan’s old boyfriends…thus it is not so difficult to understand her eventually warming up to it.

    And yes, Hoffman is definitely not the “hero.” He is continually abusive (verbally) to Susan throughout the film, treating her like crap. In real life, a nerdy-looking mathematician who just happened to luck into marriage to a woman who looked like her (and was completely devoted to him) would be thanking his lucky stars and washing her feet without being asked.

  29. “there are two kinds of women. there’s women and there’s pussy. amy is pussy under the veneer of being a woman.”

    from peckinpah’s playboy interview on STRAW DOGS. lurie can’t recreate that frontier attitude. not should he.

    anyway, i love JUNIOR BONNER more but happily, nobody wants to remake that. too gentle.

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