The Aggression Scale (2012)
When out-on-bail mob boss Bellavance discovers that $500,000 of his money is missing, he sends four hardcore hit men to send a “loud and messy” message to the suspected thieves’ families. But when the killers invade the Rutledge home, they’ll meet the household’s emotionally disturbed young son Owen. Owen has a history of violent behavior, knows how to make lethal booby-traps and is about to teach these thugs some deadly lessons in extreme vengeance.
“Aggression Scale : (noun) A psychological test measuring the frequency of overt aggressive behaviors that may result in physical or psychological injury to others.”
Actually it was my intention to begin with a quote from Owen, the teenager who’s at the core of this bloody home invasion, but this is impossible because he says not a single word throughout the film. Not a sound even. I was expecting a typical B-movie but as the movie progressed, I was pleasantly surprised. You can call it “Home Alone” for adults (“The Aggression Scale is like Home Alone on crack.” I read somewhere) : bloody, vicious and sometimes straightforward explicitly violent. Compared with Owen, Kevin looks like a wimp. And the viciously tricks and booby traps that Owen constructs for his attackers, are worse and more deadly than those of Kevin.
Essentially the story isn’t that extraordinary. A certain Bellavance (Ray Wise) just left prison and wants to leave to a safer place together with his son. The only problem is that his hard-earned money is stolen. Four loyal gang members are instructed to find the money. And this task is tackled in a simple way: you take a list of all people who had something to do with it and you start off from the top of this list. Those who can’t answer the questions, are unceremoniously provided with some fresh ventilation holes. And that’s the first image you get to see in “The Aggression Scale“. Immediately a bluntly and senseless slaughtering. The victim didn’t even get the time to answer the question anyway. But it had effect, this “in-your-face” violence. I must admit I immediately sat straight after that moment. A real attention grabber that clarifies which direction it’ll go.
What Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook) and his companions weren’t expecting, was the presence of the young scion Owen (Ryan Hartwig) of the family Rutledge, which was next on the list. This silent boy carries a fairly destructive secret with him. The Rutledge family has just moved into their new home where they wanted to start a brand new life. Lauren (Fabianne Therese) isn’t happy about this course of events and clearly shows that. She doesn’t feel like babysitting the weirdo Owen in this reconstituted family. However, she doesn’t realize that she should be happy that this youngster stands at her side.
Clearly it’s a low-budget film, but one that was enormously appreciated by me. A fast-paced aggressive film that keeps your attention all the way. The continuous flow of violent scenes is perfectly dosed and the thoughtful actions of Owen make it interesting. Although he sometimes looked like a youthful MacGyver who used farfetched methods which were successful because of the necessary amount of luck and coincidence. Also the performances can be praised. Ray Wise, who of course became known as Leland Palmer in “Twin Peaks“, his contribution wasn’t extensive. But the moments he came into the picture, he managed to portray a ruthless gangster. Also known from “Twin Peaks” is Dana Ashbrook (as Bobby Briggs). I surely didn’t recognize him with that graying hair and rounded beard. He made me think of Ruben Block, the singer of Triggerfinger. But what charisma he exuded on the screen. The atmosphere changed immediately when he appeared. A threatening and unapproachable posture. He’s surrounded by a few stereotype individuals : the mindless muscle bundle with a tremendous resilience, a moronic idiot and the cowboy-type with a “Je mon fou” attitude. But it’s Ryan Hartwig who excels in his wordless role. In the beginning he looked like a retarded autistic boy but soon he grows out into a clever and inventive survivalist when he and his family are in danger The only one who irritated me immensely was Lauren. When trying to escape cold-blooded killers, you don’t start running through the woods like a hysterical teenage girl screaming your lungs out. Luckily she calmed down near the end and gained control over herself again.
There are several movies that show how someone can collapse psychologically and starts to react extremely aggressive. “The Aggressive Scale” however, shows how far one can go in his aggressiveness. It’s a disturbing thought that someone is unable to control his aggressiveness without medication and constantly threatens others. But it’s a starting point that’s suitable to weave a fascinating concept around. The best hidden item in this film was the way Owen and Lauren grew together. They began as two strangers who interacted apathetically with each other and end up as a kind of Bonnie and Clyde. Inseparable and deadly vengeful.