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Lords of Dogtown - Review

Lords of Dogtown

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Uncensored director and cast commentary; Introduction To Dogtown; Making Of Lords Of Dogtown; Storyboard Comparisons; Deleted scenes; Blooper Reel; Featurettes; Music Video.

FOLLOWING hot on the trail of the award-winning documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, comes this highly entertaining fictionalized account of the rise of the skateboard movement in 1970s California.

Lords of Dogtown is a gritty and unflinching look at the trials and tribulations of the Z-boys and their founders that expertly taps into the adrenaline-rush of excitement that accompanies watching or participating in such an extreme sport.

And while the need for such an account may be dubious in light of the documentary, the presence of stars such as Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch and Johnny Knoxville might broaden the topic’s appeal to mainstream audiences.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the skateboard movement was turned on its head (almost literally) by the likes of Jay Adams (Hirsch), Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) and Peralta (John Robinson), who became inspired by the invention of new, concrete-hugging urethane wheels on their boards to push themselves to even greater physical extremes.

Supported by Skip Engblom (Ledger), the co-founder of the legendary Zephyr surfboard and skateboard shop, the trio formed a team and regularly competed in tournaments around the region to enhance and further their reputations.

Training took place at every opportunity and frequently involved breaking into the gardens of the neighbouring rich elite to use swimming pools that had been drained because of drought.

Yet as their fame grew, so did the temptations of celebrity, resulting in the break-up of the Zephyr team and the clashing of several personalities.

Catherine Hardwicke’s movie does a credible job of chronicling this history and embellishing it with drama, yet remains at its best when concentrating on the action itself.

By using hand-held cameras and bringing the viewer to board level at every opportunity, she manages to re-create the buzz and exhilaration of taking part – as well as the bone-crunching cost of coming off!

Hence, Lords of Dogtown functions as a dizzying thrill ride on several occasions, effortlessly explaining the rush that is associated with boarding.

It’s not quite so strong when focusing on the drama of the tough upbringings and failed relationships that were par for the course, despite giving several of its young cast the chance to shine.

Hence, a love triangle between Adams, Peralta and Alva’s sister, Kathy (Nikki Reed) isn’t as affecting as it could be, while Adams’ tough relationship with his mother (Rebecca De Mornay) isn’t afforded any real time to make an impact.

They look and feel like diversions to take the focus away from the skateboarding and occasionally feel cliched.

That said, Hirsch and co maintain a well-realised camaraderie even when ambition and arrogance threaten to come between them, while the likes of Ledger and Knoxville provide charismatic support.

The soundtrack, too, plays like a powerhouse 70s compilation of some of the best tracks around and certainly does its bit to keep the whole thing energised.

And there’s a terrific little cameo from Tony Parks to keep the eagle-eyed boarding crowd amused into the bargain.

Lords of Dogtown is a film that exhibits a near-perfect understanding of the culture it represents and is pretty much a blast from beginning to end.