Lords of Dogtown

This story begins in 1975, as we see teenage surfers Peralta, Tony & Jay surfing the waves at Venice Beach, LA. While not surfing they help out at the local surfboard store owned by Engblom (Heath Ledger). As well as being surfboard fans, they also enjoy skateboarding and begin to hone their skills when new stronger wheels come in for their boards. The 3 guys also take advantage of a severe drought, which sees residents emptying their swimming pools - empty curved space for the skaters to really let loose. Soon enough, their hobby gets noticed by big business and sponsorship deals come their way. What follows is how each of the 3 boys handle the opportunities presented to them, and how this affects their relationships to each other.’Lords of Dogtown’ is based on true events from the mid ’70s, when skateboarding really became apart of popular culture. For the people riding them, it became like a religion - an escape from their real lives. The boys in this film are depicted being from lower to middle class backgrounds, which gave them the motivation to aim for the best skating sponsorship deal they can. When ‘Corporate America’ comes knocking on their door, suddenly their hobby just becomes another job, and greed suddenly sets in for one of the boys. However, this allows the boys to learn the financial side of the business - which they use to their advantage as they get older.

The film is mainly cast with unknowns, but all of them give very energetic performances, with lots of enthusiasm which comes across to the audience. Of the 3 boys, Emile Hirsch is a stand out and is one to watch in the future. There are a few well known people of the cast, one of them being Heath Ledger, who gives a fantastic performance as the Jim Morrison type ‘leader of the group’ Engblom. This would have to be one of Ledger’s best performances ever, and is definitely memorable. Rebecca DeMornay is almost unrecognisable as the mother of one of the boys, and gives a very sympathetic performance. Johnny Knoxville pops up as a local gangster type, who sponsors one of the boys, and tries to turn him into as greedy as he is.

The cinematography and skating scenes are excellent in this. The audience really gets a sense of being with the boys as they skate, and the tricks that the guys do on the boards are quite something. The storyline is slightly cliché ridden, as at times it feels like the usual ‘coming of age story’. But the fairly strong performances from the leads, and the excellent skating scenes generally overcome any minor quibbles.

Skateboarding is a multi million dollar industry these days, so it’s interesting to see what it would have been like in its early days before the Corporations took things over. The music and costume design of the 70s are always fun to watch, as is the case here. This is well worth a look, and is an entertaining and interesting history lesson.

Rating out of 10: 7 and a half

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