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SXSW Review Capsule: 'The Aggression Scale'

Photo of Steve Greene By Steve Greene | Criticwire March 15, 2012 at 5:30PM

Both the low-budget environs and the heavily violent streaks in "The Aggression Scale" have critics torn.
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Most films that have to do with a home invasion will somehow conjure images of a wily youngster thwarting two would-be robbers at Christmas. Much of the Twitter reaction and elevator-pitch synopses coming from the festival about "The Aggression Scale" seem to reference a certain 1990 film, but the extent to which Steven C. Miller's first feature-length release since "Automaton Transfusion" improves the genre or sets it back is a point of contention among critics.

A still from "The Aggression Scale."
A still from "The Aggression Scale."

Some would agree with Alison Willmore, who writes at The Playlist that the film might have benefited from a little more patience and an attempt to cut down the haphazard nature of the narrative. "'The Aggression Scale' was made on a low budget and in a hurry, and feels ragged and careless in strange ways," she writes, specifically citing that "the film would have done better to cut out the female characters it doesn't know how to write or what to do with."

Others are not so reserved in their criticism, including Todd Gilchrist, who imbues his Hitfix review with a special level of vitriol. He takes issue with the character of Lauren, the daughter in a family targeted by a quartet of hitmen looking for a half-million dollar cache. He explains that "the script as a whole is such a moronic, half-considered jumble of clichés that her inconsistent behavior is the least of the film’s problems," adding that "it’s the kind of movie that’s so bad it makes you angry at the filmmakers, ultimately inspiring the only revenge that means anything in Hollywood – namely, not patronizing their films."

But one man's abject failure is another man's "sort of a low-budget ass-kicker," as Scott Weinberg describes the film at FEARnet. "Even at its most familiar, 'The Aggression Scale' has a raw edge and relatively unpredictable approach to a well-traveled story," he continues. "There's just enough of a spark to make all the running, chasing, hiding, and desperate physical altercations feel a little bit fresh."

And even critics who acknowledge that the acting is not necessarily of the highest order, like Badass Digest's Devin Faraci, still have found things to appreciate in the film's overall crafting. "It doesn’t have the slickness or the scale of a studio film," he explains, "which is sort of too bad because the basic concept and script are totally worthy of a bigger budget version. But the movie as it exists is filled with energy and a deranged sense of fun, all fueled by Steven Miller’s undeniable visual eye and flair."

Instant Twitterverse Reaction:

"THE AGGRESSION SCALE is decent, but it wouldn't score very high on its title." - Matt Goldberg, Collider

"The Aggression Scale: what if Kevin McCallister was a violent autistic survivalist and Hans Gruber and his team shows up at his front door." - Eric Vespe, Ain't it Cool News

"Nodded off in The Aggression Scale, aka Drive: The Next Generation. Baby autistic MacGyver + paper characters = no thanks." - Daniel Carlson, Pajiba.com

"Part of me thinks THE AGGRESSION SCALE is mindless genre fun. Another part thinks it glorifies ppl like Dylan Klebold. Color me conflicted." - Andrew Johnson, Film Geek Radio

This article is related to: South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), Review Capsules, The Aggression Scale


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