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Film / The Aggression Scale

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The Aggression Scale is a 2012 action film directed by Steven C. Miller. It stars Ray Wise, Dana Ashbrook, Derek Mears, Fabianne Therese, Ryan Hartwig, and Jacob Reynolds.

When mob boss Bellavance (Ray Wise) discovers that $500,000 of his money is missing, he sends four heavily armed hitmen to send a "loud and messy" message to the suspected thieves' families. But when the killers invade one of the homes, they'll meet the household's emotionally disturbed young son Owen (Ryan Hartwig). Owen has a history of violent behavior, knows how to make lethal booby-traps, and is their equal in his level of aggression.


  • Agony of the Feet: As part of one of Owen's traps, Lloyd steps on a board with a series of nails driven through it. One of the nails goes all the way through his foot and out the top of his boot.
  • And Some Other Stuff: The film very carefully doesn't show exactly what Owen mixes to create the gas trap he places in the freezer. He grabs two large bottles from the cleaning supplies, so it seems likely that bleach and ammonia (which will create chloramine gases) are among the primary ingredients, but anything else is a mystery.
  • Bald of Evil: Two of the hitmen, Chissolm and Freddy, are completely bald.
  • Batter Up!: When Chissolm bursts into Owen's room chasing Lauren, Owen grabs a baseball bat and attacks him.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Owen is stated to have become selectively mute following his stint in the mental institution. His aggressive tendencies apparently go back much farther than that and he manages to single handedly take out an entire crew of mob-connected hitmen.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Owen puts his Trap Master skills to great effect to protect himself and Lauren from Lloyd and his crew and outright murders 2 of them for threatening his stepsister. For her part, Lauren inverts this by fatally stabbing Wydofski when he gains the upper hand while fighting Owen.
  • Booby Trap: Owen sets up a bunch of traps to cripple or kill the Mob assassins who invade his home in a very dark version of "Home Alone" Antics.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Maggie's daughter Lauren is not happy about her mother marrying a total stranger, being uprooted from the city, moving to the middle of nowhere, or acquiring a stepbrother with an unnamed mental disorder, and is quite vocal about her displeasure. She toughens up over the course of the film.
  • Bully Hunter: According to his medical file, Owen was confined to a secure mental facility after he crippled two bullies who pushed him too far.
  • Caltrops: Owen uses jacks as improvised caltrops in his series of traps. He must have sharpened the tips, given how far they stick into Lloyd's flesh.
  • Car Meets House: The film ends with Owen and Lauren killing Bellavance via ramming a truck through his office's wall and running him over.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Every single item that Trap Master Owen will use in constructing traps to battle the home invaders is seen when the family is moving into the house; often only for a few seconds.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: The second person killed in the film is a man who gets into his car and is immediately shot by Lloyd who is hiding in the back seat.
  • Dictionary Opening: Opens with the dictionary definition of "aggression scale": a four-part behavior rating scale used to evaluate and document the “frequency and severity” of aggressive episodes. The rating scale is made up of four categories; verbal aggression, aggression against objects, aggression against self, and aggression against others.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Just over 48 hours. Ballavance gives Lloyd 48 hours to kill everyone who had access to the money and return the cash to him. Bellavance and his son are still in his office during the final scene, indicating that it cannot be more than a few hours past the deadline.
  • Fingore: Lauren gets part of her hand blown off by a shotgun blast when the thugs invade the house.
  • Groin Attack: When Chissolm chases Lauren into Owen's room, she kicks him in the groin. This is the start of Chissolm's Trauma Conga Line.
  • Heal It With Fire: After being shot, Owen digs the bullet out of his own chest with a combat knife, and then cauterizes the wound with the car's cigarette lighter.
  • Hollywood Autism: Owen has just been released from a high security facility. He suffering from some form of mental disorder, the exact nature of which is never specified. It bears some hallmarks of autism, and he refuses to communicate verbally. He is a savant when it comes to creating lethal traps.
  • "Home Alone" Antics: Played for horror. Owen is definitely psychotic to some degree and his traps are absolutely brutal, with gory results. Good thing the people who end up falling into them are a bunch of Mob assassins.
  • Improvised Lockpick: Owen snaps the arms off Lauren's sunglasses and uses them to pick the lock on the office at the car yard.
  • It's Personal: The hitmen don't start with this in mind, but as Owen continues making a nuisance of himself, it swiftly becomes this.
  • MacGyvering: Owen is like a sociopathic teenage MacGyver when it comes to turning common household items into lethal weapons.
  • Make an Example of Them: Crime boss Bellavance orders his chief lieutenant Lloyd not only to recover his stolen money but to send a "loud and messy" message by killing not only the thief, but anyone who could have been the thief.
  • Mugging the Monster: Lloyd's crew thought they were dealing with a simple thief/ex-associate of their boss but they had no idea his son was a sociopathic Trap Master. That they didn't abandon the mission and resorted to taking Lauren hostage after witnessing what Owen was capable of pushes this into Bullying a Dragon territory.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: After Lloyd discovers the stolen cash, Lauren plants in his mind the idea of keeping the cash and not taking it back to Bellavance. He then shoots Chissolm—the sole surviving member of the gang—so he won't have to share the cash with anyone.
  • Oh, Crap!: The expression on Lloyd's face when he is crawling up the basement stairs and looks up to see Owen about to push the filing cabinet down on top of him.
    • Bellavance at the end of the film when Owen drops off an envelope at his mobile office containing photos of the corpses of his targets. He smirks in satisfaction that Lloyd and his men completed their mission, but then loses all color in his face once he sees photos of their corpses. He looks outside just before Owen and Lauren was about to drive their truck into his office.
  • Pocket Protector: Owen is saved from Lloyd's bullet by the hubcap he had stolen and shoved down his sweatshirt to use as a weapon. The bullet still goes through it, but is slowed down enough that lodges in his sternum rather than penetrating his chest cavity.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Lloyd's henchman are a bunch of blue-collar guys doing a job. They are looking forward to killing the last of suspects and going back home to families.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: Bill stole the money from Bellavance's private account after Bellavance was arrested for murder, and used it to buy Owen's way out of the facility he was in. He figured Bellavance would not need the money in prison, but he didn't count on Bellavance making bail.
  • Self-Surgery: After being shot, Owen digs the bullet out of his own chest with a combat knife, and then cauterizes the wound with the car's cigarette lighter.
  • Tae Kwon Door: Lloyd knocks on the door, and then kicks it open as Maggie comes to open it: smashing the door into her face.
  • Trap Master: Owen, who shows incredibly ingenuity in rigging up traps to cripple and kill the crooks who invade his home and kill his father and stepmother.
  • The Voiceless: Owen. Comments from his father Bill indicate that Owen could speak before the incident that landed him in the secure mental institution, and that Owen is choosing not to speak for reasons of his own.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: Owen gets shot in the chest. The bullet is slowed by a Pocket Protector but still lodges in his chest. He performs some Self-Surgery and digs the bullet out with a combat knife.