The Aggression Scale, 2012.
Directed by Steven C. Miller.
Starring Ray Wise, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Boyd Kestner and Ryan Hartwig.
When a group of armed men attack a family looking for stolen money, the children hit back.
Not having seen any trailers or read any reviews, it was refreshing to go into this film not knowing anything about it. The title suggested an action film of some variety. What I got was Home Alone mixed with Rambo. Whilst not of the same quality as either of those, it is still an intriguing mix.
The film centres on the Rutledge family and their new home away from the city. It’s a huge house (perfect for running around and hiding in perhaps?), and it soon becomes clear that they are in the sights of Bellavance, a mob boss out on bail who is missing $500,000. He sends four uncompromising crooks to collect what’s his, but little do they know that they have the Rutledge’s young son Owen to contend with.
Owen (Ryan Hartwig) is an emotionally repressed child with a troubled past, who it is shown has taken a keen interest in weapons and traps. He has no dialogue in the entire film, which for most child actors would be considered a problem. Hartwig however manages to competently show us what is going on in Owen’s mind by mannerisms alone, silently studying his surroundings. Not Oscar worthy but certainly a stand out.
Daughter Lauren is bossy and a typical hard done by teenager. As it seems she was written to be whiney and annoying, you could say she is a success as I found her to be extremely irritating. Parents Bill (Boyd Kestner) and Maggie (Lisa Rotondi) are decent enough, but ultimately aren’t given much to do.
The villains of the piece are a cookie cutter boss and goons, and serve only to be shown up by our young protagonist. You have Twins Peaks’ Ray Wise as the cruel Mob boss, alongside fellow alumni Dana Ashbrook as ‘lead goon’ Lloyd. Also of note is Derek Mears (who I couldn’t help but get excited about as he once played Jason Voorhees) who is the designated ‘big tough goon’. He probably should have kept the mask on though, as though he has presence due to his height and physicality, he hasn’t got much in the way of acting chops.
The rest of the cast is serviceable, with no one in particular shining. In fact, this is the main issue I have with The Aggression Scale; it’s quite forgettable. Even with the aforementioned intriguing premise and short run time of 80 minutes, the film struggles to get going and never really picks up speed. It just bumbles along. It could have been much more interesting and entertaining to see a harsher, more violent version of Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin. Instead of constant back-chat and toy cars we get calculating silence and Stanley knife blades. Whilst the bad guys do react appropriately, and are a lot harsher than The Wet Bandits, I never found myself really caring. Frustratingly it threatens to spark into life at several points, but really could have done with a longer run time and stronger characterisation.
Culminating in a ridiculous ending that wasn’t really needed, you could do a lot worse than spending an hour and half with the Rutledges. Owen is a child who scores highly on The Aggression Scale. Though it has an interesting premise, it’s a shame that the film itself doesn’t figure higher on an enjoyment scale.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★