Creating any film around extreme sports like surfing and skateboarding is no easy task, which is why you see more documentaries within this unique genre. Sure, there have been a few over the years, but not enough if you ask me, which is why I really get excited when something like “Lords of Dogtown” comes around. Yeah, it wasn’t really marketed all that well back in 2005, but I watched it and to this day see it as one of the stepping stones that led Heath Ledger into stardom. So, with summer right around the corner, why not feature a DVD that honors summer sports?
The story here is all about the Z-Boys, who were Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk), Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) and Stacy Peralta (John Robinson) and the mark they made on the sport of skateboarding. Starting out, the Z-Boys were just boys wanting to be surfers like the other locals in Venice, CA, who had reigned for years. The leader and guy the Z-Boys looked up to was Skip Engblom (Heath Ledger), owner of the Zephyr surf shop where the whole gang hung out from time to time. It was California in the 70s, so all they had was surfing, but one day Skip was handed some new “in-line” skateboarding wheels to test out that would eventually turn his and the newly dubbed Z-Boys’ world around. The next thing you know, the Z-Boys were turning wicked moves on their skateboards in drained swimming pools (or what they called a wave that never breaks) and competitions, starting a skating craze across the country. And, with this kind of success comes money, fame and girls, all of which that can test the very best of friendships. In the end, however, it was all about the skating, leaving a question of whether or not that was enough to keep the trio together?
I’m not sure how closely the cast modeled the original Z-Boys, but with one of the original Z-Boys in Stacy Peralta involved, I can only imagine he did his best. And really, the cast in this one was great, lead by none other than Heath Ledger, who was quite impressive as Skip. Ledger, who played a convincing drunk the entire film, did not overpower the rest of the cast. If anything, he took a backseat, which is exactly what director Catherine Hardwicke wanted, proving even back then he was a special talent. The rest of the cast was chosen well and seemed to feed off each other quite nicely. The one-standout performance, though, was Emile Hirsch, who had the toughest role to play in Jay Adams. Hirsch’s character probably had the most talent out of all the Z-Boys, but chose a separate road without the fame and fortune. This created much emotion and struggles, played very nicely by Hirsch throughout this story.
It almost goes without saying that the action and extreme camerawork was top notch in “Lords of Dogtown.” And for anyone who has seen a surfing documentary, you already know what I mean, but for those of you who haven’t seen one before, get ready to be taken on a wild ride. Having already done the famed documentary “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” Stacey Peralta had a lot to say about how certain skating scenes should go, which helped with how real everything looked and felt. In fact, it was said that the original Tony Alva helped Peralta and Hardwicke choreograph several of the scenes, showing the young actors how the Z-Boys should skate and act. But, it wasn’t as much skating, as it was the balance of the emotional story with it, which is where Hardwicke shined. That balance fueled the action taking place, keeping you guessing of what might happen next.
“Lords of Dogtown” may not be for everyone, but I would think anyone that has the least bit interest in surfing or skating will enjoy and appreciate the true essence of this story. It’s hard not to love extreme skating and surfing, but when it’s shot under the watchful eye of two of the Z-Boys themselves, it can’t get much better than this making it a great DVD to own or rent.
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