Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, John
Robinson, Michael Angarano, Nikki Reed, Heath Ledger, Rebecca
De Mornay, Johnny Knoxville
RunTime: 1 hr 47 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Rating: PG (Clean)
Date: 22 September 2005
The tough, gritty streets of “Dogtown” in Venice,
California didn’t look like much to outsiders, but to
a handful of teenage surfers (Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva and
Jay Adams) in the 1970s they were the hard, winding, sloping
inspiration for a revolutionary style of skateboarding. Transferring
the aggressive wave-riding moves to concrete from their death-defying
surfing skills at the Pacific Ocean Park pier, the Z-Boys
– mostly kids with rough home lives and rougher attitudes
– became sensations, local legends. They were freestyle
wizards on urethane wheels, turning empty pools into arenas
of wild, beautiful athleticism, the genesis of today’s
“extreme sports.” Skating competitions didn’t
know what to make of them, girls threw themselves at them,
and suddenly marketers and promoters wanted to grab a piece
of them and what was fast becoming a worldwide counterculture
phenomenon. But would the friendships of this tightly knit
group last as a teenage pastime turned into big business,
and energetic personalities became out-of-control celebrities?
easy to classify this film under the "(extreme) sports"
genre meant strictly for fans, but it'll be doing the film
a great injustice. It's more than just a film about surfer
dudes bumming around and finding that big break. Rather, it
touches you on the human drama which unfolds amongst friends.
This film has heart.
the audience back to the 70s with the tune of Jimmy Hendrix's
Voodoo Chile Blues, Lords of Dogtown tells the tale of four
friends from a poor and hard neighbourhood in Venice, California,
who sparked a revolution in the sport of skateboarding by
adapting moves learned from surfing the Pacific Ocean waves.
Alva considers himself the best amongst the Z-boys, with a
cocky attitude to boot. Stacy Peralta's competitive streak
and natural flair makes him Tony's number one peer. Jay Adams,
credited with creating the innovating slick moves from imagination
and countless practice, somehow remains nonchalant about competition,
and remains the underachiever of the group. Sid, on the other
hand, is a rich kid but a mediocre skateboarder, the punching
bag for the group, basking in the glory being friends with
and associated with the Z-boys.
their aggressive streak and defiant, rebellious attitude,
the youths get shown some direction and were mentored by a
small surf shop owner Skip Engblom, played to surfer dude
perfection by Heath Ledger. Realizing the boys' potential
and forecasting the fortune that they could bring to his business,
he embarks on a quest to manage the Z-boys under his own brand
and company by enrolling into various state competitions,
and tried being the father figure to them all.
like to bring particular attention to the first competition,
because though what we see today are comparable or even higher
standards than those in the film, bear in mind that this was
the group credited for being the forefathers of the stunts
of today. Competition standards prior to the Z-boys were plain,
ordinary, following standard formats without much excitement.
Experiencing the initial shock and reaction of the audience
and judges when the Z-boys unleash their act, and the events
aftermath, was one heck of a ride.
so too is the discovery of a new way to practice - in empty
private swimming pools. Watching them practice is a joy, and
you'd wish you could be out there doing the same too!
this film also explores the realities of the competitive sport
business. Poaching of star players are the norm, and we see
the lure of fame and material wealth biting the hand that
feeds. It's nothing personal really, just business, but questions
are looked into, if these are more important than loyalty
and friendship. And what makes this a complex study, is that
we see it from both perspectives, as each of the boys have
different agendas and motives, like Jay's need to pay the
bills and his filial piety in wanting to bail his mom out
of hardship and suffering.
numerous photoshoots, magazine spreads, women offering themselves
to the boys, we see the corruption of fame and fortune, and
the slow erosion of their friendship, especially when they
can't resolve their differences and at times, become rivals
in both matters of the heart, and on the sporting arena. We
also see the fickleness of fame, in one moment you could be
on top of the world, and in the other, you're in the doldrums
with no one the wiser who you once were. When you're down,
injured, or just simply lost "it", all that is material
and fluffy, will disappear as easy as they came. That's the
nature of the business, and of sponsorship.
true friendship is one that will withstand even the most turbulent
of times. We are brought to
remember their roots and the days when things were more carefree,
and everything was done in free spirit and in the name of
fun. The ending is one of the more touching moments in the
film, wrapping up and coming full circle to how the boys begin
with, bringing them back and reminding all how it all began.
a relative group of unknowns as the main leads was an outstanding
move, as the group doesn't bring along past baggage into their
roles as surfer teenagers. Heath Ledger totally chewed the
scenes he was in, and you feel pity for his character Skip
as he tries really hard to combat the bigger organizations
vying for his team's attention, and that his lot isn't made
any better by having work partners with surfer attitudes,
who fail to see the boys' potential like he
skateboarding fans, this could be the film you're waiting
for, to learn a bit more about the history and the phenomenon
of the sport. However, some might need some time to adjust
to the uneven camera motions that this film employs.
by the true story, stay during the end credits where you'll
see the real Z-boys in action,
way back during the time when they were practising in empty
pools, and we're also informed of the current lives of the
group of protagonists.
of Dogtown successfully fuses extreme skateboarding action
with human drama - a gem for fans and non-fans alike!)
Review by Stefan Shih