Image: Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Dir: Steven C. Miller (Automaton Transfusion)
Cast: Dana Ashbrook, Fabianne Therese, Ryan Hartwig, Derek Mears, Jacob Reynolds, Joseph McKelheer, Boyd Kestner, Lisa Rotondi, Ray Wise
Reason to see: Looked pretty intense and I was curious about the concept
The cover of the DVD for The Aggression Scale provides us with a definition of the terms being: "A psychological test measuring the frequency of overt aggressive behaviors that may result in physical or psychological injury to others" which quickly provides us with both the context and concept going into the film. It's interesting as often we see films about the breaking point at which someone would turn to violence, but The Aggression Scale goes past and starts with not when, but how often and how far people will go with aggressive behaviour.
It's clearly a disturbing idea, and creates a lot of unnerving situations with great tension as it mashes together stories and people on both sides of a stolen money situation. One of this that I really enjoyed about the film is that it doesn't play the morality card. It barely even touches on the subject at all, and instead just goes for the throat with indifference and at times witty humour. Normally, indifference and violence totally put me off but here they made it work from using the perspective of it being a job, or greed, or the wisp of a dream that glimmers in someone's eye. And it wasn't completely heartless, there was some real heart in it to. I don't know how they made it work but they did. It's wild.
I thought it was interesting to use a newly blended family with a fair amount of tension as a group to follow as they are rather awkward with each other creating interesting dynamics and a fair amount of mystery to each characters back story. We don't get quite as much insight to the band of thugs after them, but I was floored by Dana Ashbrook who is fantastic as Roy, aka the lead thug and just trying to get a job done. I also loved the focus on planning, foresight and execution in the film that gave it an almost heist-like format where you get to follow along and try to see, interpret and wonder if everything will go as planned.
I would have loved to see the pacing tightening up just a bit in bridging the stories together quicker, just a moment or two where you can tell it's likely a lower budget film in terms of the locations but I wouldn't hold that against it. The idea is interesting and they explore it well, and it pays off big time. Fair warning for folks that are put off by violent films as The Aggression Scale will probably put you over the edge, but for those that like blood, shock and violence in your entertainment than this is definitely a film to see. The make-up was very impressive as well. Gruesome, but amazing. It also has a pretty warped sense of humour at times which was a great balance to the tense theme.
The Aggression Scale suprized me way more often than I was expecting, and not just with the tension and boundary pushing, but with the story as well. The character dynamics were unusual and I especially like how they used a blended family trying find their new feet with each other and their new space as a focus. Overall it was a very solid thriller and I'd strongly recommend it for thriller fans and anyone who can take the violence & blood. It's well worth checking out.
- Making Of The Aggression Scale (14 minutes) behind the scenes of filming plus footage of the location, cast & crew and interviews with director Steven C. Miller, producer Travis Stevens, writer Ben Powell and actors including Derek Mears, Dana Ashbrook and Jacob Renyolds, about the theme and inspiration of the film, the quick pace of filming as it relates to the adrenaline packed tone of the film, the chemistry and cast combinations of the two groups of characters in the film, what it's like to work together and the process of filming. There is a subtle playful quality to the behind the scenes as they including things like the oh-so glamorous jobs the producers, and showcases the community spirit and bonding during making the film.
Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I strongly recommend it to thriller fans and folks who enjoy films that push boundaries
Return to Film Reviews, see more DVD Reviews or my Vlog review of The Aggression Scale here.
© Shannon Ridler, 2012