Steven C. Miller's film 'The Aggression Scale' opens with the character of Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook) just blasting some poor lady in the chest with a shotgun followed by him blowing the back of some poor shlubs head off in a car, and then he Polaroid's these poor dead people. The scale of Lloyd's aggression is like sky high right? I mean this is one angry, aggressive dude. Well, not really. Lloyd is actually kind of cool, laid back and he's actually kind of a passive lackey who just dutifully follows orders. Aggressive people tend not to passive. I think those two words are actually the opposite of each other. So whose aggression scale are we concerned about here? Lloyd and his crew of brutal, albeit bumbling hitmen are about to find this out.
Say hello to Bill (Boyd Kestner), his silent thirteen year old son Owen (Ryan Hartwig), Bill's new wife Maggie (Lisa Rotondi) and Maggie's awesomely bitchy eternally scantily clad teenage daughter Lauren (Fabianne Therese). This brand new family is starting a new life together, much to Lauren's dismay, and has just purchased an absolutely gorgeous home conveniently located out in the middle of nowhere. Eventually we know that Lloyd and his crew of miscreants are going to introduce themselves to these good folks, but why? They seem so nice with the exception of Lauren.
For the reasons for this we first need to make the acquaintance of Mr. Bellavance (Ray Wise). This guy has a pretty high aggression scale, believe me. He's a mobster of some kind, he's out on bail, it looks like he's about to go down for the remainder of his and he needs to flee the country. Problem is that somebody stole his secret stash of loot, which is where his flunky Lloyd and his crew come in as they have been dispatched to retrieve this loot and murder anybody remotely connected to stealing this loot. And Mr. Bellavance wants proof.
Simple enough. Now I know Bill couldn't have stolen that money because stealing money from bad people is stupid. If one is dead set on stealing from people, then you steal from hard working honest people like Bernie Madoff did because hard working honest people tend not to hunt you down, torture you and murder your family after you steal from them.
One knock on the door later, let's just say that our new family isn't doing too well anymore as Bill apparently did that stupid thing that he should've known not to do. Our hitmen still have a problem however. They don't have the money and those two kids made it out of the house. No problem, they're just kids, right? Plus one of them might know where the money is. Just get 'em back, torture them, kill 'em, move on. Oh well, so much for that.
While Lauren is certainly a head case, she's more self-destructive. Owen on the other hand… I don't think our hitmen weren't quite ready for what Owen brought to the table. In fact Owen is so batshit insane, and methodical about how he goes about his business, don't be surprised if you find yourself mildly rooting for the murderous hitmen. I mean these guys, bad as they might be, are only doing their jobs and they aren't showing up at my house unless I do something stupid like steal from the mob, whereas Owen is treating this bad situation like a trip to the Splash Park and he might show up on my front porch at anytime. I'm just saying.
Director Steven C. Miller's first movie was a little zombie flick called 'Automaton Transfusion' from some years back and I was really hoping he'd get around to actually finishing that movie before moving on to other projects, but it doesn't looks like that's ever gonna happen. Yeah I didn't like that movie all that much but I still would've liked to have known how it all ends. That being said I had a much more fulfilling experience with 'The Aggression Scale'. It's a Home Invasion movie which we are all familiar with, featuring a lot of the same types of players we see in these movies from violent hitmen to helpless damsels but there are a couple of elements which gives 'The Aggression Scale' a bit of an edge.
Take the bumbling hitmen for starters because these guys were kind of funny. Especially Derek Mears who looks about as scary as any dude ever, until he opens his mouth and these well-spoken words with a comedic slant come spilling out of arguably the scariest looking dude ever. In all honesty the hitmen in this movie were so grossly incompetent that this probably should've been a deal breaker in this movie but it worked.
But the main reason the movie works is the quiet, cute insanity put forth by young Ryan Hartwig. We're used to seeing kids rise up and turn the tables on grown folks, but rarely are we afraid of these cute cherubs. Seriously, Owen is dangerous. It could probably be argued that Owen is the villain in this piece. We enjoyed seeing the kid in action but it wasn't lost on us that the world as a whole would probably be better off if the crazed killers got their act together and did their freaking jobs.
A movie such as this does stretch the believability to the breaking point, this one probably more so than most, and while Fabianne Therese is an easy kid to look at, if at anytime the director wanted to ask her to stop screaming and howling and yelling and howling some more, I wouldn't have been upset with him, but with Ray Wise chewing up scenery like a square of Laffy Taffy, solid performances from pretty much everybody involved, some of the most brutal violence I've seen in quite some while and arguably the craziest kid ever put on high-def video, The plusses in 'The Aggression Scale' far outweigh its negatives.