The Aggression Scale is a good lesson that cranes and crushed blacks do not a slick action thriller make. Director Steven C. Miller certainly has a flair for moving the camera around and keeping things in focus, but unfortunately those things are amateurish acting, fake dialogue, and painfully stupid storytelling. Ostensibly an action thriller with an unlikely hero — a cunning and violent young boy — this film is amateur hour, all week long. We’re forced to watch cameras swivel around in complicated set-ups that mean nothing, while scene after scene passes by without anything worthwhile happening or any characters being meaningfully developed (though they don’t fail to sexualize an underage girl, complete with shower side-boob!). Eventually shit goes down and we’re treated to bumbling bad guy behavior and nonsensical action gags, even though it doesn’t make sense that any of the characters are doing any of things they’re doing, or are in any of the places they’re in. Some of the low-rent action techniques were so ostentatious that the audience was laughing at the film which — a few smirking moments aside — takes itself quite seriously.
I will say that Ryan Hartwig plays the preternaturally strategic child pretty decently. I could see him being good in other, better movies.
I have to note that this film also features one of the worst sound design jobs I’ve seen in an otherwise professional film in some time. On top of the generally poor recording, I counted (literally counted) no less than 12 distinctive stock sound effects that even a layman could recognize. Yep, all those cheesy cliched effects like the little girl laughing, the clipped female scream, the ole red-tail hawk screech, and the doplerized passing truck horn are all there, and that’s excluding the stock swooshes cheesily put on top of the whip pans and rack focuses to… amp up the action or something?
I’d typically hesitate to rip so nastily into an indie film like this, but The Aggression Scale has backers at this point and — more importantly — its many problems are not the result of a low-budget, but rather shitty judgement.
The Aggression Scale Details:
Director: Steven C. Miller
Screenwriter: Ben Powell
Principal Cast: Fabianne Therese, Ryan Hartwig, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Jacob Reynolds, Joseph McKelheer, Boyd Kestner, Lisa Rotondi, Ray Wise
Charged with murder and likely going to jail, crime boss Reg Bellavance is out on bail and wants to skip town with his son. The only problem is that the money he had stashed away for just such an occasion has gone missing. Bellevance gives his right hand man Lloyd a simple order: Find his money, kill everyone who had a hand in stealing it and make it messy. Lloyd and his crew tear out into the city and begin carrying out the order in brutal fashion… They have no idea just how dangerous their job is about to get.