It’s Home Alone meets A History of Violence in this film about a young, psychopathic boy who fights back and defends his family against four armed henchmen. The always enjoyable Ray Wise plays a gangster named Bellavance who gets bonded out of jail on a murder charge to find that several of his employees have embezzled a half million dollars from him, counting on the fact that he would not get out of jail. Bellavance sends four tough thugs to hunt down those who stole the money, kill them, and get the money back…and not necessarily in that order.
One of those who took part of the money is a man who has moved his family to a quaint home in the country in order to try and start a new life for his son Owen (Ryan Hartwig), a boy of around 13 who has a history of violent behavior and has only recently been released from a psychiatric institution. When the gang of thugs tracks the family down and forces them to turn over the money, Owen springs into action, protecting his older sister Lauren (Therese), and setting up a series of deadly traps for the thugs, turning his home into a literal house of Hell.
The Aggression Scale has an anorexic plot filled with holes. The hitmen are so wantonly brazen in the way they deal with the other embezzlers, killing them right in broad daylight, that it seems far too implausible that they would not be apprehended long before they get to Owen’s family. Our thugs, who include Derek Mears of Friday the 13th fame, are definitely not the sharpest pencils in the desk and frankly they don’t make for a very imposing group of antagonists. That said, the film works for the most part on the strength of the two young leads, Hartwig and Therese. They are easily the two smartest and most resourceful characters in the film.
Hartwig plays his role brilliantly. He doesn’t have a single line of dialog in the entire film, playing his role as a troubled mute. He doesn’t need to speak. He conveys his words through his expressions and mannerisms. He turns from angelic teen to violent psychotic at the drop of a hat. There is a great scene where Owen is tracking the killers and uses his sister as bait. When she questions him about the tactic he merely gives a devilish shrug. Owen is believable because he uses a combination of pure violent wrath and guerilla tactics to take out the thugs. Seems Owen has a thing for reading books about combat strategies and proves to be a quick study. He sets up numerous Kevin McCallister-style traps but with far bloodier results. Also give credit to Fabianne Therese as older sister Lauren. She is more than just playing the standard screaming, damsel in distress role. She has always been distant towards Owen but in his protection they finally bond as brother and sister.
The Aggression Scale is filled with a bushel of faults but still manages to be an entertaining diversion for 90 minutes.
The Making of the Aggression Scale (15:00) – Includes behind the scenes footage and interviews with the director, writers, and cast.
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