Review: Lords of Dogtown
Blu-ray: Lords of Dogtown (2005)
Every scene has its grommets, they’re the annoying little fuckers, usually the younger brothers or sisters of people in the group. They have their own gang but all desperately want to be in with the big kids. You see them hanging around football matches in the park desperately hoping they might get picked for a game or riding their bikes in circles around you when you are hanging with your mates and trying to ignore them.
It was certainly harder to be a grommet in Venice California in the 70’s; the older surfers of the run-down beach resort controlled the water and got to determine who got a shot at catching a wave. Add to that they are often the children of people who migrated to the coast in order to live the dream of working and surfing only to find that the jobs are usually seasonal and the pay is low. So what do you do when there’s no swell or you can’t get near the water without risking a beating? Well the next best thing is a skateboard.
Lords of Dogtown is the story of such a group of kids and is largely based on the Zephyr Skateboarding Team (or Z-Boys) which formed in Venice and Santa Monica and went on to change the world of skateboarding forever and producing world champions as well as a few casualties along the way.
Skip Engblom, stoner/drunk owner of the local surf store (played brilliantly by Heath Ledger) notices that the kids have taken their style of skateboarding to mimicking the way surfers had changed their style in the water: attacking the waves and trying to get aerial moves rather than going for the clean classic rides. Ever the chancer Skip decides to cash in by forming a team and selling a shitload of skateboards on the back of it.
What follows is a classic story of talented obnoxious kids challenging the skateboard establishment with punk rock moves and picking up fans who had never seen anything like it before. Of course as their fame grew then bigger companies emerged and threw money at the kids in order to lure them away into personal contracts and the team folds, but they have a hell of a lot of fun on the way.
It has a host of cameo appearances from the original Zephyr team members and I spotted Tony Hawk dressed as a spaceman and falling of a board. Jeremy Renner makes a brief appearance as does Johnny Knoxville.
Director Catherine Hardwicke captures the essence of being part of a gang and handles the action scenes excellently and the kickass soundtrack covers 70’s heavy metal to punk. My one minor gripe is that the original Zephyr Team actually had a female member (Peggy Oki) but this has been airbrushed out and girls are reduced to fawning over the boys or are just something to attempt sex with.
If this wets your appetite for surf/skate movies, I would recommend a couple of other films: the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys which gives a truer picture of the Zephyr Team. The Russell Crowe narrated Bra Boys which paints a picture of life in a surfer gang in Maroubra Beach Area of Sydney Australia.
- 1080p High Definition transfer on the Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD
- Uncensored director and cast commentary
- Introduction to Dogtown by director Catherine Hardwicke
- 7 featurettes about the making of the film
- Deleted / alternate scenes
- Blooper reel
- Storyboard to Screen comparisons
- Music video “Nervous Breakdown” by Rise Against