Scriptwriter David Sumner (James Marsden) and his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) relocate to rural Mississippi where Amy grew up, to rebuild the house of Amy's recently deceased father and to allow David to finish a script.
While in town one afternoon, David meets Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his three friends, Norman (Rhys Coiro), Chris (Billy Lush), and Bic (Drew Powell). David is intimidated by the men but hires them to fix their roof. He also meets Tom Heddon (James Woods), a former high school football coach whose 15-year-old daughter Janice (Willa Holland) is attracted to a local man with an intellectual disability, Jeremy Niles (Dominic Purcell). Heddon often bullies Jeremy and believes he is stalking his daughter.
Charlie and his friends soon begin taunting David, which later escalates into harassment as they make crude remarks towards Amy and intentionally play their music loud to distract David while he writes, while taking longer than expected to fix the roof. One Sunday after church, Tom attacks Jeremy for talking to Janice, and Amy comes to his defence, but David warns her to not get involved.
Later that night back at home, David discovers their cat strangled and hung up in the bedroom closet. Amy is positive Charlie and has friends are to blame as they disappeared from the church barbeque for a few hours earlier, but David is hesistant to confront them. When he does finally question them, the men deny everything.
Charlie invites David to go deer hunting. While out in the woods with two of the men, Charlie forces his way into the house and rapes Amy. Afterwards, Norman arrives and also rapes Amy while Charlie watches. When David returns, Amy decides not to tell him. David fires the men the next day for taking too long to fix the roof and men leave, clearly disgruntled.
David and Amy go to a local football game. Janice lures Jeremy to enter an empty locker room and attempts to give him oral sex, while Tom notices her absence and begins looking for her. As he approaches, Jeremy, scared of Heddon discovering them, holds his hand over Janice's mouth to silence her, accidentally smothering her to death. He runs away just as Tom informs Charlie and his friends of Janice's disappearance. They all suspect Jeremy has done something to her.
At the game, Amy has haunting flashbacks about the rapes and asks David to take her home. On the way, she tells him she wants to return to Los Angeles, surprising him and causing him to accidentally run over Jeremy who is standing in the road. David and Amy take him back to their home and call an ambulance. Charlie and Norman overhear the ambulance call on a police scanner, and inform Tom. They all drive to David and Amy's house, and demand the couple hand Jeremy over, but they refuse. The Sheriff then arrives but Tom shoots him dead, then the men attempt to enter the house. David and Amy barricade the doors shut then take Jeremy upstairs to the bedroom and prepare to fight off the men.
When Chris attempts to enter through a window, David nails his hands to the wall with a nail gun, his throat fatally exposed to broken glass. When Tom tries to follow, David burns his face with hot oil. Tom and Charlie ram down one of the house's walls with Charlie's pick-up truck but Charlie is knocked unconscious. David fights Tom off and causes him to shoot himself in the foot. David then shoots Tom and beats Bic to death with a fireplace poker.
Upstairs, Amy and Jeremy are attacked by Norman, who has climbed in through the window. Norman is attempting to rape Amy again when David and Charlie appear. Charlie and Norman draw on each other when Norman threatens to kill Amy. Amy shoots Norman, Charlie assaults and disarms her, then David jumps him. Charlie kicks David down the stairs and beats him up severely. While David lies prostrated on the floor, disarmed, Charlie prepares to shoot him in his head when Amy approaches from behind, pointing the gun at him. Turning to her, Charlie informs her the gun is empty, and says to her "I will always protect you, baby", when David rises behind him and slams a bear trap down on his head, which shuts and ensnares him. Charlie slowly dies.
As sirens are heard, with the house up in flames, David says "I got 'em all".James Marsden as David Sumner
Kate Bosworth as Amy Sumner
Alexander Skarsgård as Charlie Venner
Dominic Purcell as Jeremy Niles
Rhys Coiro as Norman
Willa Holland as Janice Heddon
James Woods as "Coach" Tom Heddon
Billy Lush as Chris
Laz Alonso as Sheriff John Burke
Walton Goggins as Daniel Niles
Anson Mount as Coach Milkens
Drew Powell as Bic
The film was originally scheduled for release on February 25, 2011. However the date was pushed to September 16, 2011. The film began shooting on August 16, 2009 in Shreveport and Vivian, Louisiana.
Straw Dogs opened on September 16, 2011 with $1,980,000 for the day and took $5.1 million in its opening weekend.
The film received mixed reviews; Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 40% based on reviews from 121 critics, with the consensus "This remake streamlines the plot but ultimately makes a fatal mistake: It celebrates violence". Metacritic gives the film a score of 45% based on 29 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film 1.5 out of 4 stars stating that Straw Dogs "almost succeeds as an object lesson in the difference between being a man and being a macho animal. But it fails as a gripping home-invasion thriller". Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune called the film "a bird-brained remake" that is "miscast, barely functional in terms of technique, stupid and unnecessary" and rated it 1 out of 4 stars. Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe, wrote that watching Straw Dogs was like "being waterboarded by liberals outside a Democratic National Committee event".
Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times had reviewed the original version back in 1971. He gave the 2011 film 3 out of a possible 4 stars, and states "This new version of "Straw Dogs" is a reasonably close adaptation of the 1971 film by Sam Peckinpah. Change the location from England to Mississippi, change a mathematician into a screenwriter, keep the bear trap and the cat found strangled, and it tells the same story. It is every bit as violent. I found it visceral, disturbing and well-made", and said he preferred it to the original.
Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News was also favorable towards the film, giving it 4 out of 5 stars, declaring that "while Lurie could have gone lighter on the symbolism, he ratchets up the tension with deft intelligence. He's not just making a thriller but a horror film, and we feel his own fear in every scene".