The Aggression Scale DVD Review
Directed by Steven C. Miller
Written by Ben Powell
2012, Region 2 (PAL), 85 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 3rd September 2012
Ray Wise as Bellevance
Dana Ashbrook as Lloyd
Derek Mears as Chissolm
Jacob Reynolds as Freddie
Fabianne Therise as Lauren
Boyd Kestner as Bill
Of all the people that you could possibly cross or get on the wrong side of, why would you ever risk incurring Ray Wise's wrath? He's the Devil Himself in Reaper, for cripes' sake. So when a desperate dad steals Ray Wise's money while the gangster is in prison, you can be sure that the scary faced one won't take it lying down. With one-time Jason Voorhees Derek Mears on the payroll, Desperate Dad and his family are in for a heap of trouble. But not even Ray Wise could foresee a prepubescent psychopath standing in the way of him and his money. “Little shit,” says Wise of the increasingly ridiculous Owen. Indeed.
Despite a strong opening and some truly tense chase scenes, The Aggression Scale is ultimately a Home Alone movie with gore and a mild pottymouth. On the run from Ray Wise and his thugs, a couple and their teenage children move to a remote country house where they hope their past will never catch up with them. Disturbed, silent Owen is at odds with sister Lauren, a sulky stereotype who resents the move and her weird new brother. Only the day after they arrive at their new home, four heavily armed thugs arrive, looking for Wise's money. What seems like a perfectly adequate home invasion thriller takes a turn for the terrible when it emerges that little Owen is more dangerous than any hired gun. The film lost me when Baby Rambo effortlessly took down Derek Mears with a baseball bat.
It sounds cute, but Owen's Baby Rambo act is anything but. Chase scenes in the woods with Owen and his sister resemble Stallone's bloody run from the cops in First Blood, complete with intricate traps and violent comeuppances for the pursuers. The violent Home Alone treatment is a trick regularly used by Wes Craven (particularly in his Hills Have Eyes) but that works because it feels earned – the desperate teenagers in a Wes Craven film are usually out of their depth and at the end of their tether. From the moment he beats up Derek Mears with a baseball bat, we're in little doubt that Owen can handle whatever the thugs come at him with. Those with a higher tolerance for children may enjoy The Aggression Scale more, but Owen's character ruined the film for me. As with poor Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in Home Alone, I found myself rooting for the aggressors and hoping that Supernanny would hurry up and put Baby Rambo on the naughty step. Too late, Baby Rambo has booby trapped the staircase with razor blades and filing cabinets.
The Aggression Scale is a taut thriller with an interesting concept (in any other film, Owen would have been the villain) but divisive execution. It's well acted, even by its younger stars, and Wise, Mears and Dana Ashbrook (one of Wise's fellow Twin Peaks co-stars) manage to give excellent performances despite the fact that Owen makes a mockery of them all.
Video and Audio:
It looks and sounds fine, if mildly cheap. It also emerges that Derek Mears is much more softly spoken than you might expect from a man with that face.