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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Aggression Scale


Starring: Ryan Hartwig, Fabianne Therese, Dana Ashbrook, Ray Wise and Derek Mears
Anchor Bay
RRP: £17.99
Certificate: 18
Available 03 September 2012

When Bellavance gets out of jail on bail, he only has a limited amount of time to get his stolen cash before he can flee the country. The problem is that someone has stolen it. So, he sends out four heavily armed men to track down anyone who had contact with the money and kill them and their families. Working from a list, Lloyd and his crew work their way across the country, taking pictures of their victims until they turn up at Owen's house...

The Aggression Scale (2012 - 1 hr, 21 min, 45 sec) is a violent thriller directed by Steven C. Miller from a Ben Powell script.

Given the film's premise, its placing in the home invasion subgenre, and the casting of blond haired Ryan Hartwig, comparison with Home Alone are inevitable. Where Home Alone was a light hearted comedy about a kid laying traps for thieves around his house, Aggression Scale is a film about killers beings hunted by a psycho kid, the traps are still there, but this time they are deadly. It’s a bit like Dexter: The Early Years, which makes for an appealing twist.

Much is made of the inclusion of Ray Wise as Bellavance and though he is as good as ever, he only appears at the beginning and end of the film. Dana Ashbrook plays Lloyd as a stone cold killer, who thinks nothing of murdering anyone who gets in the way.

When we first meet Owen's family they appear to be the perfect nuclear unit, although there is obviously something we are not being told. Owen has returned from somewhere, but where is not explained at this point. He is a child who speaks very little and it is to Hartwig’s merit that he is able to express such violent menace with just his physical acting.

His parents Bill (Boyd Kestner) and Maggie (Lisa Rotondi) seem like an ordinary couple and their daughter Lauren (Fabianne Therese), is the typical stroppy teenager, who is none too impressed to meet her new stepbrother. It is never stated in the story if she is aware of where Owen has been and why.

When Lloyd, Chissolm (Derek Mears) and two other accomplices invade the home, things turn violent quickly; with Maggie’s murder as Lloyd tries to get Bill tell him where the money is. Alerted by the sound of the gun Lauren looks into the living room before fleeing. Chased by one of the killers she is rescued by Owen, who seems to have a good grasp of how to hurt and kill people.

Although, from this point the film follows its inevitable path, the fast pacing and excellent acting never makes you feel like your re-watching a very similar plot. The plot has a thick vein of dark humour throughout, made more menacing by the fact that Owen is only twelve years old with a face like an angel, but a hidden dark soul.

The film is well balance; the gore is never over the top, but still quite enough to shock, the action sequences are well choreographed, but where the film really scores is in its ability to maintain a high level of suspense. There are times when Owen get perilously close to not winning every encounter and his vulnerability, given his age and size are exploited to crank up the tension.

The film has been made on an obviously small budget, but this is handled well with most of the action taking place in and around a single location.

The DVD has no extras. Audio is either 2.0 or 5.1, both are clear, but the 5.1 works better in the action sequences.


Charles Packer

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