May 20, 2012

Filthy Review - The Aggression Scale

The Aggression Scale (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

Right from the very start of director Steven C. Miller’s The Aggression Scale you are left under absolutely no illusion as to what kind of movie you are watching. It starts with a visual punch to the face and never really lets up. This flick is an angry, snarling little beast that smells blood and wants you, the viewer, to taste it. Mind you, with the name of the film being what it is, you didn’t really expect a happy-go-lucky kind of flick did you?

For all intents and purposes The Aggression Scale is a home invasion style flick, although it is one that prefers to take the route of cold violence over gradual dread or scares. It isn’t a horror film, although you do get your fair share of horror, instead this is what I can best describe as a pitch black thriller with elements of horror thrown in. What it most definitely is, is a kick-ass ride that delivers plenty of aggression, blood and violence.

The movie’s plot revolves around a mob boss, played by the wonderful Ray Wise, who has had $500,000 stolen from him. As you might expect, this does not sit too well with him so he sends out four hit-men to recover the loot. He wants his money back and he wants anyone that might be involved in its theft to be punished. He needn’t worry though, as the hit-men, which include Dana Ashbrook as Lloyd and Derek Mears as Chissolm, are more than happy to oblige him.
On the flipside of this we join a family who are in the process of moving to a new house. Newly married and with kids from previous relationships, the parents are quite obviously hiding something, and we the viewer have a pretty good idea of what it might be. And you’d be right. Before too long the posse of hit-men soon turn to try and retrieve the loot. They didn’t however take into account that the son, Owen (Ryan Hartwig), has violent tendencies of his own. Very violent tendencies, and these kinds are about to find this out firsthand.

The strength of The Aggression Scale lays with several factors, in my eyes. You have a simple set-up, there really is no superfluous bullshit going on, leaving the film to focus on the main plot. There are also two very strong performances on either side of this battle. Dana Ashbrook, who you may well know as Bobby Briggs from Twin Peaks (as of course was Ray Wise), gives an absolutely cracking turn as the lead aggressor. Why have we not seen more of him recently? He kicks ass in this movie, and is one mean son-of-a-bitch. Opposite Ashbrook is Ryan Hartridge as Owen, and this performance is really the one that the film hinges on. Owen doesn’t say much, instead he lets his actions do the talking, but it is his mannerisms and expressions that give the character depth. These two really are the stars of the show and are both fantastic to watch.

The rest of the cast are all pretty decent as well. Ray Wise, who isn’t in it all that much to tell the truth, is always good value for money, and Derek Mears (Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th remake) who is eerily at home with a shotgun in his hands, is also solid as Chissolm. The two other hit-men put in serviceable performances, although one borders dangerously close to a comedy role. All in all though pretty damned good all around.

Visually I really liked the look of The Aggression Scale; it has a gritty look to it, yet looks very well made. You aren’t getting wobbly cameras here, that is for sure. There is also a good honest score that accompanies the onscreen action, which all helps to wrap up the movie in a tidy little package.

Am sure you want to know about the violence that I have mentioned. Well, yes it is violent and very rarely holds back. I wouldn’t say that it was especially gory, but there are a couple of scenes that may make you cringe, there’s at least one scene that surprised the hell out of me and there is no shortage of claret.

If you want a good honest and violent thriller that puts a different spin on the home invasion movie, I suggest you give The Aggression Scale a spin, as it is a blast from start to finish. Don’t go in expecting the re-invention of the wheel, because you won’t get it, but instead you will get a violent thriller with a mean and devious streak to it. Highly recommended.

The Aggression Scale is released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 29th from Anchor Bay.

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