I’ve been feeling frustrated for a while now about the release-date delay of Rod Lurie‘s Straw Dogs. The initial plan was to open it in spring 2011, but last March it was bumped to September 2011, which seemed to me like a candy-ass move. Distributors always delay when they’re scared. They tend to put off releasing so-called intimidating films on their slate the same way financially-troubled folk will sometimes put off paying the mortgage.

Straw Dogs is a smart but violent film with a rape scene, sure, but why bite into a sandwich if you don’t intend to chew and swallow?

One hopes that Screen Gems might grow a pair and decide to release Straw Dogs next spring after all. Maybe. Because release-date squeamishness always colors the buzz. Audiences can always smell indecision. If Screen Gems distribution execs were men, Straw Dogs — a remake of Sam Peckinpah ‘s 1971 classic based on “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm” — would be showing at the Toronto Film Festival and opening in the mid to late fall, or perhaps early ’11.

The general rule of thumb is that if your film isn’t released within a year or so after the end of principal photography, you’ve got some kind of worries going on. Inviting press down to the Straw Dogs shoot last fall and then announcing it won’t open until…oh, who knows but maybe Spring 2011 or September 2011 is like purchasing a Variety trade ad saying, “Okay, we’re a little scared — we admit it. We picked up the sandwich, we bit into it and…uhm, we’re not quite sure how to play it.”

There’s nothing wrong with the movie, I’m told. It works fine, has tested well. The problem is simply (a) a money thing — i.e, the amount of p & a bucks that are available versus the vast amount of films that Sony has to release and (b) the fact that Straw Dogs is fairly modular as to when it can be released — i.e., not a holiday film, not a summer film and so on.

Straw Dogs costars Kate Bosworth, James Marsden.

The rape scene (fans of the Peckinpah original obviously know what I’m talking about) will be a tough thing to get through for some, and there are concerns that the MPAA may slap Dogs with an NC-17 because of it, but Lurie has said all along that he’s not inclined to water anything down. The film is what it is.

My cynical side is inclined to dismiss any release-date hesitation as hiding and whining. Straw Dogs entering the world of 21st Century marketing and becoming Little Yappie Dogs. Fear of critics, fear of Peckinpah, fear of Toronto, fear of failure, fear of rape scene, fear of everything that this movie is about.

The other side says there’s no fear of anything. This is just the way of distribution these days. Nothing is being hidden. Sony has loads of films to put out and there are only so many screens. This has nothing to do with being scared. It has to do with not being morons and finding a way for it to make the most dough possible.

I spoke a while ago to Lurie and he assures that “the film is very intense and the rape scene is not a stepping back from the original at all. Anyone expecting some kind of watering down is going to leave the theater in a state of shock.”

The Straw Dogs house, taken in Shreveport, Louisiana last October.