out of Five
Running time: 108
Enjoyable drama with a terrific cast – this is a must-see for anyone who liked Dogtown And Z-Boys.
Lords of Dogtown is a dramatised version of the events documented in Stacy Peralta’s Dogtown and Z-Boys, about the birth of the skateboarding craze and the three guys who started it all: Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Peralta himself.
The script is also by Peralta, but he has wisely turned directorial duties over to Catherine Hardwicke, who made Thirteen, and whose rough-edged, semi-documentary style fits the film perfectly. It also has a cast that is so achingly hip, it hurts – Victor Rasuk (from Raising Victor Vargas) as Alva, John Robinson (from Elephant) as Peralta and Emile Hirsch (who will be a HUGE star, if there’s any justice) as skating bad boy Jay Adams.
The film is set in Venice Beach in 1975, where teenagers Jay, Tony and Stacy are best friends. They hang out with a bunch of older surfers but are beginning to get fed up of only being allowed to surf once the surfers have nabbed all the best waves. Then surfboard builder Skip (Heath Ledger, doing a great Val Kilmer impression) gets some urethane wheels and suddenly the boys ditch surfing in favour of skating, particularly when they discover that their new wheels allow them to climb walls and do impressive stunts inside empty swimming pools.
Their mad skating skills transform the sport, stealing it from the nerds (illustrated by an amusing scene where they enter a skating contest) and creating an entirely new, hip subculture. However, each of the boys has to deal with their new-found fame in their own way: Tony’s monstrous ego rampages out of control; Jay rebels and prefers to do his own thing; while Stacy seemingly remains level-headed, despite cameo appearances on Charlie’s Angels and getting to meet astronauts.
The three leads are superb, with Hirsch probably the stand-out – he and Rasuk do particularly well to suggest more than the script’s rather one-note characterisation allows. There’s also great support work from Ledger and from Michael Angarano (from Sky High and Dear Wendy) as the boys’ friend Sid, as well as Rebecca DeMornay as Jay’s mum and Johnny Knoxville as local big-shot Topper Burks.
It’s extremely well directed - the skating scenes have a genuine energy to them (helped by the fact that the leads all learned to skate like pros); and there’s a terrific soundtrack that Hardwicke puts to good use. Highlights
include: Jay’s seduction of Stacy’s girlfriend, while dancing to Hendrix; Skip making surfboards while singing Maggie May; the use of ‘Wish You Were Here’ over the skating championship sequence; Jay taking out a vicious bully with the judicious use of a skateboard to the side of the head; Sid’s sex scene with “Thundermonkey” (America Ferrera), in which he asks her to “Tell me I’m a great skater”; and the moving final Dogbowl reunion.
In short, Lords of Dogtown is a must-see for anyone who liked Dogtown and Z-Boys and also for anyone who enjoyed Thirteen (one of the leads, Nikki Reed, appears here as Alva’s sister). The script is fairly simplistic and never really attempts to get inside the characters, but there’s terrific energy in the performances and the direction, making this one of the summer’s most enjoyable films. Highly recommended.
Lords Of Dogtown (12A)