Director: Steven C. Miller
Script: Ben Powell
Cast: Ryan Hartwig, Fabianne Therese, Derek Mears, Ray Wise, Dana Ashbrook
Running time: 82 minutes
Year: 2011
Certificate: 15

Although I’m not in total agreement with the PR guff that came with this film, which states that The Aggression Scale is Home Alone meets First Blood, it certainly has elements of the former and has the grittier tone of the latter. It actually reminded me more of films from the early nineties, like Playing Dangerous and Toy Soldiers, where troubled teenagers take on and assortment of bad guys, including terrorists.

The Aggression Scale sees ruthless crime boss, Reg Bellavance, played by the always-reliable Ray Wise (Mad Men), being released on bail from prison for 48 hours after being charged with murder. He plans to avoid his prison sentence by skipping the country with his young mentally challenged son using some cash he’s set aside for such a rainy day. The problem is it’s been stolen so he sets a group of ruthless henchmen off to find out who stole it and retrieve it for him, by whatever means necessary. Hitman Lloyd, and his equally mean cronies, head off cutting a swage through their boss’s short-list of culprits. If the people don’t have the money they still die and so do their families to send a message out not to mess with the not so kindly Uncle Reg!

Eventually the hit squad turn up at the new home of Bill and Maggie Rutledge and their two kids, Lauren and Owen. However, what on paper seems like an easy hit becomes a nightmare for the assassins, as they didn’t bargain on the resilience of the kids, and in particular on Owen’s secret history of violent behaviour, which makes him a prime candidate to be just like them one day, only much worse!

The Aggression Scale is one of those films you watch on DVD and then wonder why it never got a proper theatrical release because it’s much better than a lot of the tosh we’re routinely spoon-fed at our local multiplexes. This is intelligent, exciting filmmaking with liberal dollops of tension and black comedy thrown in for good measure. The film is shot well and the standard of acting is generally excellent with even the bad guys coming across as being genuinely menacing and the family are anything but one-dimensional. The two children are particularly well played by Fabianne Therese and Ryan Hartwig and, although the latter doesn’t speak at all, he more than makes up for that with his facial expressions and actions.

The film has one of the most impactful opening sequences ever, quickly followed by an excellent title score – in fact the music throughout the movie is well judged. The main characters are introduced with skill, although it would have been nice to have had a bit more time getting to know them before all hell breaks loose. Owen’s introduction, in itself, is very apt – the boy spears a spider with a needle fired from a peashooter, allowing us in one brief scene to know that he’s patient, resourceful and deadly.

While the film is violent it’s not so over-the-top to put a wider audience off – quite a bit of the violence is off screen, although still manages to be disturbing. For example, one thug is knifed and then has his head crushed by a car battery and another is caught up in a nasty trap that Owen sets up in the woods near their home.

What The Aggression Scale does very well is to set up the cat and mouse chase scenario very well and it keeps managing to rack up the tension bit by bit as you’re really not sure whose still going to be standing come the final reel.

Overall this is a refreshing take on the home invasion sub-genre and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

Reviewer: Justin Richards

The excellent Anchor Bay Films released The Aggression Scale on DVD and Blu-Ray earlier this month. No extras were on the review disc.

About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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