LORDS OF DOGTOWN
Review by Gordon Justesen
Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, John Robinson, Michael Angarano, Nikki Reed, Heath
Ledger, Rebecca De Mornay, Johnny Knoxville
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Sony Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: September 27, 2005
IT LIKE A WAVE, MAN!”
In the mid 70s,
three young boys were about to revolutionize the world of competitive sporting
in a way never before seen. Jay Adams, Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva, better known
to the masses as The Zephyr Boys, ignited a nationwide phenomenon with their
innovative skateboarding stunts. Lords of
Dogtown is an account of the boys’ rise to the top.
went onto become a filmmaker, and put his own life on film in the highly
acclaimed 2001documentary, Dogtown and
Z-Boys. Now Peralta has written a fictionalized version of the events that
he, Adams and Alva experienced as the three became renowned as the pioneers of
professional skateboarding. I never saw the documentary, but I can certainly say
that this movie is exceptionally good to the point that I’m now eager to check
The film, directed
by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), has
a terrific sense of its time and place. The story begins in 1975, where Adams
(Emile Hirsch) and Alva (Victor Rasuk) are shaped and molded into perfected
skateboarders by Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger), the stoned owner of the Zephyr
surf shop. He eventually becomes the boys’ sole sponsor, providing the boys
with the first ever type of skating wheels that grip and add traction.
At first, Peralta
(John Robinson) isn’t completely part of the Zephyr team, as his surfing
abilities leave a sour impression on Skip in the opening scene. However, his
unique skating techniques do catch their eye. Before long, Peralta joins the
Zephyr team, and the Z-boys are soon winning competition after competition in
the Venice Beach area.
The boys don’t
just showcase their abilities in front of the crowds. Because of a drought
resulting in many empty swimming pools, they come up with a technique that would
eventually end up as traditional ramp skating. This innovation didn’t come
without repercussions, as the first attempts on the swimming pool result in
But once the Z-boys
hit the fame market within the California circuit, the lure of money and fame
threaten to separate them. Sleazy promoter Topper Burks (Johnny Knoxville) grabs
hold of Tony, who seems consumed by the thought of being on top of the
skateboarding world. Stacy remains a Z-boy, while Jay, who only got into
professional skating to help his mother out with rent, seems to venture out of
the professional circuit entirely.
There are three
things that make Lords of Dogtown an
enthralling piece of cinema. The first is director Hardwicke’s dead-on vision
of California in the 1970s. This is perhaps the first movie since Boogie
Nights to capture the all around feel of what times were like in that
period. The parties, the surfing, the skating and the music are all captured
The second element
is the blazin’ great soundtrack. Like Boogie
Nights and Dazed and Confused
before it, this movie is filled, scene after scene, with classic 70s tracks. It
opens with a live recording of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and the play list
just gets better with every scene. Any movie that’s got Nazareth’s “Hair
of the Dog” and Deep Purple’s “Space Truckin” has to be given credit
alone for including those two rockin’ tracks.
The third element
is an astonishing performance by a completely unrecognizable Heath Ledger. With
a set of fake teeth, a pure stoner hair do and a pair of sunglasses on his face
in nearly every scene, Aussie Ledger amazingly disappears into the role of Skip.
At first, I seriously thought I was watching Val Kilmer doing a riff on his own
Jim Morrison performance, but once I realized it was Ledger, I found it nothing
short of riveting.
of Dogtown is an engaging
chronicle of a time when extreme sports was officially born by three young
pioneers, each of whom is still heavily engaged in the sport to this day. If you
possess any love for the sport whatsoever, you should not hesitate in checking
this movie out.
BONUS TRIVIA: Pro
skater Tony Hawk has a very funny cameo as an astronaut who poses for a picture
with one of the Z-boys.
handling of this film is top notch and most outstanding. Catherine Hardwicke has
given the film a razor sharp vision of California in the late 70s, and that,
mixed with the energetic cinematography by Elliot Davis, who also shot
Hardwicke’s Thirteen, blend to make
one visually stunning presentation, which consist of great detail, terrific
coloring and flesh tones, with no detectable image flaws whatsoever.
The 5.1 mix is
quite effective for this sports drama. The great soundtrack is the pure
highpoint of the presentation, as each of the tracks explode beautifully through
the speakers. The opening surfing scene will blow you out of your seat, and the
skateboarding sequences, especially the competitive ones in front of crowds,
also sound fantastic. This is one sound mix that really delivered more than I
Sony has loaded this Unrated Extended Cut release of the movie tremendously well. The theatrical version is available separately, but this is the one you’ll want to seek out because of some exclusive bonuses. Among the exclusive extras, there’s 4 minutes of New Footage, a Gag Reel, 2 commentary tracks, one with the Director and Cast Commentary, the second with the Original Z-Boys, a featurette titled “Dogged on Dogtown”, Alternate $#%@! (Scenes), and a Music Video for "Nervous Breakdown" by Rise Against.
include the featurettes, “Making of Lords
Of Dogtown", “Bails and Spills Featurette”, “Extended Pool
Session” and “Of Course We Want A Skateboarding Bulldog!”. Lastly, there
are Deleted and Extended Scenes, The Ocean Washes My Hair and Make-up Test, The
Making of Pacific Ocean Park, Dogtown Cameo Featurettes, Storyboard Comparisons
and Bonus Previews.