A 19 year old (Heath Ledger) finds himself in debt to a local gangster (Bryan Brown) when some gang loot disappears and sets him on the run from thugs. Meanwhile two street kids start a ... See full summary »
A fictionalized take on the group of brilliant young skateboarders raised in the mean streets of Dogtown in Santa Monica, California. The Z-Boys, as they come to be known, perfect their craft in the empty swimming pools of unsuspecting suburban homeowners, pioneering a thrilling new sport and eventually moving into legend. Written by
Somebody's gonna get their head kicked in tonight...
It's the early 1970's in Santa Monica, California. Long, sun-bleached hair, bad-boy mentalities, and lawless behavior were things that attracted the girls, and daredevils seemingly lurked around every street-corner, boasting a life of dysfunctional mishaps and isolation. It is when a skateboard-designer named Skip Engblom was given polyurethane wheels for his boards that allowed a skateboarder to have the ability to "climb walls" and defy gravity did he get the bold idea that him and his surfer friends could revolutionize the activity, thus implementing a whole new kind of skating.
The teens that pioneered this life were Skip (Heath Ledger), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk), Stacy Peralta (John Robinson), and Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch). What assisted in their discoveries and possibilities was the ongoing drought that plagued most of the California area during the time, forcing nearby residencies to drain their pools. This led to the discovery that empty pools could be used as a good source of ramps and tricks. I believe it is a tradition that skateparks today have something like this on-location. Not only did the boys find popularity with the ladies, but were attracted to the business side of skating, where it is no longer innocuous riding, but an activity of skill and recklessness that only few are willing to pursue head-on.
Lords of Dogtown explores this era in time, and pulls us along for a ride similar to what the protagonists in the film embarked on. The real Stacy Peralta penned the screenplay for the film and manages to give us a taste at what life was like during this time period.
The two immediate things to laud about the film are its use of cinematography and extremely well-crafted soundtrack. The cinematography combines a high-contrast color scheme, complimented with grainy, documentary-like sequences of skating providing the viewer with a seemingly authentic experience. A wide variety of shots are utilized and explored, and we even get a nice look under the boards to examine the wheels doing what they do. Furthermore, the shot-variety is topped off with heavy-metal rock songs taken from all over the grid, again, giving the viewer a rather accurate depiction of the time period. This is one of those movies where the music adds a lot to the tonal aspect of the experience, and it helps out more than impressions would believe.
We are given a cast of capable actors as well. Emile Hirsch, a talent still underrated and unsung to this day, gives a great performance as the reckless bad-boy, John Robinson, who I adored in Gus Van Sant's long forgotten Elephant, gives a performance of memorable status, and the same can be said for Victor Rasuk. Yet, the highlight here is inevitably Heath Ledger, giving a raw and realistic portrayal of a skateboarding prodigy. He was apparently drunk or under heavy substances during filming and I can say that this definitely helped the role - although it probably isn't recommended.
The film was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who worked behind the camera for the excellent film, Thirteen, which centered around a good girl gone bad when she met an underprivileged friend at school. Nikki Reed, the supporting actress of that film, returns here in a rather underwritten role as one of the main love interests. Lords of Dogtown seems to have all the pieces here, but what it forgets is to build on the story lines of these kids and their friends. We get many sequences of hardcore skating, scenes of them running from police, and scenes of competition, but never do we get simple scenes of talking. Writer Stacy Peralta either figures that viewers have seen the documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, which serves as the pseudo-predecessor to this film or believes that teenagers and skaters aren't interested in healthy, descriptive monologues. Correct me if I'm wrong, for I'm not a skater, but aren't many skaters emphasizing that they are often misunderstood because of societal stereotypes and are repeatedly ostracized? Aren't they sometimes looked at as the scum and pariahs of their community? I believe that some monologues about acceptance and societal visions would've fit well in this film, yet, alas, there are very few.
As for Dogtown and Z-Boys, I've read numerous times online that in order to fully appreciate this film, one must watch that one beforehand. Having not seen that at this point, I can still say I got enough enjoyment out of the film to warrant amusement and interest, but not a recommendation. The film's a bit indulgent and neglects to offer as much depth and structure as one would assume, with this being written by a skater portrayed in the film. With that being said, if one were to seek out a fictionalized account of a skater's trouble with society and social differences after an unexpected accident occurs, one could watch Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park, which illustrates this theme very carefully. I have just reviewed one marginally passable film and one of respectable quality. The choice is yours...
Starring: Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, Michael Angarano, Johnny Knoxville, and Nikki Reed. Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke.
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