Review: The Aggression Scale

Newlyweds Bill and Maggie move to the country to start a new life. They are joined by Bill’s son Owen and Maggie’s daughter, Lauren. It seems, however, that the family left some loose ends behind in the city. Those loose ends catch up to them when crime syndicate boss, Mr. Bellavance, sends a group of his men to the family’s new home to teach them a lesson. However, Mr. Bellavance was not counting on Owen. Owen is like MacGyver, if MacGyver were fifteen and a sociopath. He has some tricks up his sleeve and gives Bellavance’s thugs a run for their money. 

I watch a lot of movies that I don’t care too much for. It’s almost a rarity that I watch something I actually enjoy. So, it’s always a pleasant surprise when I get to see something that stands out.

The Aggression Scale stood out to me as a cut above many of the low budget films I’ve seen recently. It defies its means and plays out as a highly enjoyable flick.

I liked the score. There is a sense of foreboding from the very beginning. The music only serves to intensify that. The Aggression Scale begins to build a sense of unease from the very beginning. The music warns that something is amiss. The pacing was spot on. I was never left bored or waiting for something to happen. The Aggression Scale had me entertained, even before the roughhousing started. It’s taut and suspenseful. It’s one of the better examples of low budget filmmaking that I’ve seen in a while.

The cat and mouse scenes were fairly intense – Bellavance’s thugs chasing Lauren around the car lot were well done and pretty gripping.

For the most part, the cinematography is good. Some of the editing was really choppy, though. It seemed like there was some sort of point to it, as if the filmmakers were trying to emphasize the intensity of some of the scenes through rough editing, but it wasn’t effective. It came off simply looking spliced together.

The family that the film centers around looks normal enough from outside, but there are obviously deep-seated issues brimming under the surface. Great performances by most of the cast give us a look in to the dysfunction that lies beneath the surface. 

Bill has a very Jerry Blake/Stepfather-esqeu idea of family, minus the psychotic episodes. I thought Boyd Kestner did an impressive job in his portrayal of Bill.

Ryan Hartwig’s performance as Owen probably impressed me the most. It was really strong, especially considering that he doesn’t speak a single word. I’m usually not a big fan of child actors, but I thought he pulled off the role in a way that really added to the film’s dark atmosphere.

Fabianne Therese turned in a strong performance, as Lauren, throughout the whole film, but particularly impressed me in the final scenes. She was hardened and vulnerable at the same time. By the end of the movie, her on screen dynamic with Ryan Hartwig, as Owen, was kind of endearing.

Ray Wise is great. He was the perfect choice for the role. No complaints there.

For me, the weakest performance was from Derek Mears. I like Mears, as an actor, but the whole time, he seems like he is acting. He never convinced me that he was his character, as everyone else in the film did.

It’s the kind of film that you shouldn’t take too seriously. It’s got a lot of highly unrealistic elements to it. Owen creates things that would make even a seasoned engineer look amateur-ish. To really enjoy the film, you’ll have to suspend your disbelief for 85 minutes.

The Aggression Scale is a superior home invasion thriller. It’s a good popcorn flick. It kept me highly entertained the whole time. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a fun and enjoyable movie.  It’s well worth a rental.