Alpha Dog

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  • A True Story Heard, But All Too Easily Forgotten.........
    It wasn't the toughest of neighborhoods. These kid's had known each other since their first little league games, maybe longer. They grew up, with parents, whom were not the best of influences. Truelove's Father is an example. He is a dealer himself, aiding his son's illegal purchases. Later,Daddy keeps law enforcement from finding his son's whereabouts.
    In the eyes of an alpha male, he had to be always right, with a way out of any situation. Truelove was above all,and acted so. He seaked a drug debt owed to him. His debter was expected to pay, or suffer for his inability to pay. With no money coming, Truelove, kidnaps his debter's younger brother, with Truelove's friends,along for the ride.
    The teenager is treated well, till the discovery that the "Stolen Kid," will get them a jail sentence. The carefree fun, quickly sours, as an unexpected tragedy unfolds!
    It is a shocking story, all too easily forgotten, and or ignored. I could only hope the young actors involved will bring this tragic event to life. The varying fan bases widen these audience ranges. Young people need to see this, as too many believe they can do without consequences.
    Frankie's final scene with Zack leaves one with a sea of emotions! ...more info
  • A classy classic
    A true classic in every sense of the Tarrantino word. I could watch this movie a dozen time and see something new every time. Great plot, action, suspense, has it all. I rate this movie up there with Casablanca and Pulp Fiction as one of the great classics....more info
  • Stellar Cast For A Stellar Movie
    This is a film with possibly some of the best actors in the business. Bruce Willis & Sharon Stone as the veterans of the business and Emile Hirsch, Anton Yelchin & Justin Timberlake as the promising up and comers of the movie business.
    The main protagonist of this movie is Johnny Truelove, a wannabe gangster from a pretty well off background. He is owed money by a typical scumbag drug addict known as Jake Mazursky. As a form of revenge Truelove, along with friends Tiko Martinez & Frankie Ballenbacher they kidnap Jakes younger brother Zack. This event leads to a matter of different events that none of them had ever expected.

    Firstly the Hostage of this movie, Zack (Yelchin) seems more than welcome to being kidnapped by these men and shows that he's fine with the situation. Frankie (Timberlake) has an attack of conscience and knows that the kidnapping will only lead to dreadfull things. Johnny (Hirsch) simply seems to care about one thing and that's getting his money back. While Zack is kidnapped he is shown this privileged gangster lifestyle and he falls in love with it, he becomes part of the gang. On the other hand Truelove & Frankie continuously argue back and forth about whether to let the kid go as to avoid any devastating situations.

    This is a surprisingly good movie that depicts the mindset that some of the younger generations have towards life, no matter how privileged their background may be. From the start it seems to drag on non-sensically but towards the middle the plot starts to make sense as it becomes a movie about morals, friendship and trust. The most surprising thing is, is that this film is based entirely around true events which is a bit upsetting but again a true depiction of the lives of some young generations in suburbia.

    This review is from the Blu-Ray version that's released in the UK....more info
  • is 'little athens' not enough yet?
    'alpha dog' usually means a dog that leads the pack, a leading dog. so which one in this movie was the leading dog? we also know that only the leading dog can enjoy the ever changing views ahead. so tell me, besides we are not so sure about which or who was the leading dog, what kind of view ahead was changing? we just saw a bunch of thug-like young guys and whore-like young women sticked to those thugs, doing drugs, pushing drugs, stealing, fighting, fornicating....what else we got in this movie? okay, suppose it's based on a true story, what's the point and what's the big deal telling this losers' messy nightmare?
    there's a city in arizona called 'little athens' where lived a bunch of drug addictive young people...then there's a city called 'claremont' in calfornia with almost the same and similar young people living there, doing nothing but taking drugs, smoking pot, smoking cigarettes, drinking beers, fist fighting, quarreling, carrying guns, partying, talking dirty all day long, 24/7; same s..t, different places.
    so, what's the purpose of making this movie? are they trying to market their sound track album or what?
    i watched those mindless young americans on the screen got nothing to do but repeatedly doing those things, i really didn't know what's the real purpose of making another 'little athens' again, only this time relocated them in claremont, california. with so many bad young people living in that city as this 'alpha dog' described, i really don't know if it won't further hurt the real estate market in that city.
    i've tried to get a grip of this movie, about the motive and the motivation of how and why this production budget was approved to do such a purposeless going-no-where movie, but i was totally clueless. if you got the answer, well, you'd better keep it for yourself, because i don't want to hear or know it. ...more info
  • Teenage wasteland--oh wait, it's sunny California!
    "Alpha Dog" is a perfect companion piece to the equally harrowing "Bully". Both films chronicle sordid tales of amoral teenagers living vacant lives filled with the artificial pleasures of sex, drugs, and holding power over one's peers. In "Bully", the casualty of wanton violence was a ruthless, sadistic punk. In "Alpha Dog", the victim is a kid who doesn't come to appreciate his family until he's immersed in a night of boozing, sucking on a bong, and engaging in casual sex in a swimming pool. Played by Anton Yelchin, he's a nice kid, torn between the overbearing yet moral discipline of his parents, and the neurotic, jittery narcotic overload of his older brother. Much of the film focuses on the kid being held "hostage", and the friendship he forms with Justin Timberlake's character. Justin treats him with respect, and the kid responds by trusting him with his life. He even allows Justin to bind his wrists and mouth with electrical tape, accepting this dubious action like a Judas kiss.
    The film is energetic, well-paced, and disturbing. It also has smatters of perverse humor. I think the ending speech by Anton Yelchin sums it up perfectly. He says that he's sick of leading a life where he isn't good at anything. He comes to appreciate his mom, who's "the bomb". He's at a turning point, and can choose the right path. Unfortunately, fate will decide otherwise. The parents of most of the film's teenagers are reprehensible; it's obvious the director's message is that screwed-up parenting leads to messed-up kids. Johnny Truelove's dad (played by Bruce Willis) only chastises his son when he does something to threaten the family drug-dealing business. Timberlake's character's father is a drunken womanizer who pulls it together in the morning to go to his suit-and-tie job. His son's work for the day involves pruning the abundant marijuana plants in the backyard. "He has a garden full of vegetables and spices to eat healthy, but drinks liquor every night and fills his veins with drugs. What a hypocrite".
    For teenagers to party like this and soak their minds in a cocaine fog means that their parents are not involved. The hard-earned pleasures of sports, playing a musical instrument, or mastering an art are replaced by the glowing rapture of fried brain cells. This leads to poor judgment that can end in murder. Or maybe these kids were just never taught the intrinsic value of human life. That involves parental guidance as well.
    ...more info
  • A waste of time
    Absolutely horrible. What a waste. Justin Timberlake needs acting lesssons big time! The only scene worth any salt was at the end. Bad acting and poor direction blew it to hell. ...more info
  • Excellent Lesson On The Folly Of Suburbanite Materialism.
    The sex and foul language, in my estimation, were unnecessary; however this film is the best of its kind to drive home the lesson on the folly of suburbanite parental pampering.
    This film starts with clips of children growing up together in the suburbs relishing the splendour of suburban living.
    As the film develops, however, one gets a glimpse that suburban materialism is no substitute for true parental love and discipline. These kids obviously lacked them. (I've seen happier and more fulfilled people in inner cities). The parents do learn where they've failed, but much too late.
    Emile Hirsche has matured as an actor. It was almost startling to see him rise from more naive and innocent roles (such as in "Wild Iris" and "Mudge Boy") to that of a thug. He surprised me.
    Needless to say, Justin Timberlake has a great body, but the tatoos have got to go.
    Bruce Willis does a good job in the portrayal of a father who learns of his parental failures too late....more info
  • An Open Letter to Nick Cassavetes
    Dear Sir:

    Your movie "Alpha Dog" mixes the very worst of the youth and drug culture into a disgusting orgy of idiocy, sex, and violence. In a shameful display of anarchistic and narcissistic youth run amok, you have given us quite possibly one of the worst movies ever made. Since your father, John Cassavetes was an established director and actor; the critical establishment did not check and see if your other movies were ever good. Not that the "critical establishment" has done the American public any favors as of late. Your cinematic canon has included the instantly forgettable "John Q." and the nearly unviewable "The Notebook". This train wreck of a movie is more of the same. The opening credits of childhood home movies with an awful "Over the Rainbow" rendition should put the viewer on notice right away that this could be a long night. The movies follows a bunch of spoiled kids as they deal narcotics in an operation that an average street junkie or public defender client would critique as "amateur." After some brief character introductions, the movie delves into a kidnapping sequence that degenerates into something resembling a narrative. I believe there was a part where a crack head/dealer and apparently martial arts expert kicks everybody in a bar, but by that point in the movie, I was concentrating solely on how I could convince the rest of my party to leave, so I'm not entirely sure. There was also a scene where this same character took a dump on a carpet, but, again, at that point, I was feeling like you were taking a dump on my carpet and the smell was starting to waft into my bedroom. The story, or lack thereof, according to reports is supposed to be ripped from the headlines about an actual case in California. Next time, instead of ripping out this headline, rip out your notebook on which you scrawled this junk of a screenplay, and start over again.

    You know, Nick, It is fitting that two formerly `good' (and I do use that term loosely) actors, Sharon Stone and Bruce Willis, are at their worst in this film. It's perhaps justice that these two people should be given a movie like this to work on, being at the end of their sad dead end careers. Maybe you have a future doing Basic Instinct 3? You never know. You could then make the worst movie ever made then, maybe perhaps topping this. Oh, and here's a hint the next time you make or attempt to make a movie, save the split screen for the opening credits of the Brady Bunch, and try not to pretend like it's a original thought. You're not adding anything pleasurable to the viewing experience; you're just prolonging the torture. Oh, and Nick, while you are taking notes, when you are writing a screenplay, try and use a four letter word every other maybe...ummm...5 words instead of every other word. Without the ubiquity of those four letter words, your movie would be a collection of prepositions. Now, don't get me wrong, even with that suggestion the viewing experience would be very painful, so the next time that you think of making a movie...don't. Spare the viewing public your drivel. The people that spent $ 10.00 of their hard earned money will be more then willing to forgive you.

    Unfortunately, your movie is just one in a long line of exploitative films designed for middle class white kids that for some reason, worship ghetto (or inferior) culture. The best movies that deal with gangs/drug dealers ultimately and I know this is a hard thing to do for Hollywood, make judgments upon the characters they portray. For some reason, the critics have given you a free pass with this movie. Perhaps it's your father. (Hey, if it worked for the chief executive, it will more then likely work for a third rate filmmaker.) Perhaps its the topic of drugs in this film. A topic that Hollywood is all to eager to promote, market and sell to middle America. Hey, I can't complain, it puts a young criminal defense lawyer like me in business. Nick, look at the reviewers of this movie on a web-site such as imdb. You can tell by their gnarled syntax and grammar that these are indeed products of our excellent American public education system. They're the ones writing such memorable lines as "However, once the movie begins, it doesn't stop until the end." They are also the viewers who eat this garbage up like candy. You and others of your kind may not think you have a responsibility to make good films. You've been to film school, and you realize, unfortunately, that there is a market for a movie like this. This market is composed of white suburban kids with plenty of money who tell their clueless and self-obsessed parents that they are going to see "Happy Feet" tonight. So, let this letter be a turning point in your role as a filmmaker, but after you realize this epiphany sitting ensconced high in your resort home in the mountains, please refund my money back.
    ...more info
  • A must see for parents
    Even though Bruce Willis is more estalish as a actor Justin outshine him in this movie. His debut a actor A+ . Him and the other cast mates give this movie a really raw image of life for these boys . I encourage parents to watch this movie alone with their teenager....more info
  • Not a feel good movie.
    The worst part of this movie is that it's a true story. The best part is the character development....more info
  • What would you expect? It's Cassavetes!
    When a man like Nick Cassavetes, the director of "She's So Lovely" and "The Notebook", stumbles upon the story of Jesse James, the youngest person ever to be featured on America's Most Wanted, you can expect a riveting vision. It's even better when someone gets the guts to tell that vision. In this case, Cassavetes delivers his baby. I saw this film and had moderate expectations. I was stunned. The movie was phenominal. Not only did Mathew Barry and Nancy Green-Keyes bring in a great cast but Nick Cassavetes brought them to perfection. Everyone from Bruce Willis to Justin Timberlake delivered breakthrough performance. Ben Foster. Emile Hirsch. Everyone. Spectacular. This film was as close to flawless as many films get. Everything from Aaron Zigman's score to Dominic Watkins' production design was marvelous. And if you think the end was harsh, it even adds more drama to your experience and what you thought of the film and helped reveal to you that not everything is Hollywood-perfect. The story is about a group of teens in Southern California who are doing drugs, sex, and having parties all the time. A double-crossing leads to a kidnap that eventually spirals out of control and so the drama begins. On to the extras. Much to my gloom, there is no commentary by Cassavetes or any cast or crew member. Instead, there is an okay making-of-featurette and a witness timeline. It's rather dissapointing since it is not likely that there will bbe a special edition release.
    ...more info
  • Reminds Me of "Bully," But Has Moments of Brilliance.
    Following up his directorial debut "The Notebook," Nick Cassavetes directs "Alpha Dog" a disturbing crime drama, which is more than slightly reminiscent of Larry Clark's "Bully." The movie is, essentially, an independent drama but received a wide release since Justin Timberlake is in it and his album "FutureSex/LoveSounds" was at the top of the charts when the film finally got distribution. It didn't do well in the theatre, hasn't clicked that much with audiences, but it is a pretty good film. Emile Hirsch ("The Girl Next Door") plays Johnny Truelove, a big-time drug dealer in the Los Angeles area who spends his days dealing, smoking weed, and partying with his friends. When speedfreak Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster, 'Hostage') neglects to pay back his debt to Johnny and then beats the hell out of him, Johnny responds by kidnapping Jake's kid brother Zack (Anton Yelchin, 'Hearts in Atlantis'). This is not your average kidnapping. At first, they hold him by force, tying him up and such. Soon, restraints aren't necessary and Zack becomes more of a friend than a hostage. While it's Johnny who is established as the main character, it's Frankie (Timberlake) that takes over that role after the kidnapping. Zack begins staying with Frankie, as his brother Jake desperately searches for him, and suddenly begins having the time of his life. Smoking weed, drinking, having sex with girls...Nothing if off-limits, until Johnny discovers that he could be facing life in prison for kidnapping. It's this turning point that really throws the film off.
    Cassavetes chose to shoot this scene in a weird, heightened sense of visual reality. Like we're seeing it through the eyes of someone tripping on 'shrooms. This throws off the whole mood of a scene that could have been both haunting and disturbing. My second biggest complaint about the film is the acting; a majority of it is good, but a lot of it is flawed. First off, Yelchin is believable as the victim but he's kind a very annoying, high-pitched voice. Hirsch is not believable at all as this character because he looks like the kind of kid that got beat up in middle school, in the end this works though...Cause that's pretty much who the character is. Timberlake, however, surprised me. I wasn't expecting much from him for one reason...I've heard him sing. How could a guy that reaches new heights of falsetto in some of his songs (i.e., "My Love") possibly be believable as a gangster? Well, he pulled it off. Timberlake is more than decent as an actor and gives one of the best performances in the movie. The real star here is Ben Foster. While some could say his performance gives new meaning to the term "over-acting," it's still absolutely brilliant and he keeps your eyes glued to the screen whenever he appears. The plot of the movie is tragic, but a newspaper article about it would probably tug at your heartstrings more than the film does. No one can say Cassavetes can't make a good film though, but, after all, he was born into the industry. His mother is actress Gena Rowlands and his father is John Cassavetes, one of the most acclaimed writer/directors of all time. Cassavetes does make some solid points in his scripts about parenting and the stupidity of this crime and his direction is good (except in that scene I mentioned above), but he just missed quite a few things that could have made this film rise from "good movie" to "masterpiece." I think a lot of people who aren't expecting much from this film will be pleasantly surprised though. If you are looking for a film based on a true story that really packs an emotional wallop, I'd say "Bully" is more your speed though. Also, look for some interesting acting bits by Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, and Harry Dean Stanton, who steals every scene he's in.

    GRADE: B+...more info
  • Boys, drugs and reckless murder
    Movie about middle class boys living in California and indulging all sorts of drugs, alcohol and girls with endless partying and no real purpose in their lives. These boys are part of the clique that is led by their drug dealing friend who is master of manipulation and recklessness. As one of the addicts defaults on his payment for drugs, the war starts between the drug dealer and the obnoxious thug. No one is spared in this war and as it escalates, it starts to include even the family members. Doped, craving for social acceptance and need to prove their manhood, group of young boys abducts a brother of the non-paying low life addict in an effort to get the debt collected. While in their minds this is an innocent game of control and their abducted kid has seeming fun in his captivity, these boys slowly realize that there cannot be good end to their actions. Before long, young man is killed and everyone's destiny starts to unrevel. It is a film about excess, spoilt little suburban kids and their rebellion against nothing in particular, shallowness of the young generation whose parents are too busy making money or indulging themselves to pay attention to their own children and their own destiny. We learn that there has to be moderation in everything, including parental love. Too much love can smother and cause kids to desire to be away from too much attention and adoration that is embarrasing and can inevitably lead only to tragedy. Too much of a sheltered life, just as too much neglect can have equally tragic consequences. The only difference is that the sheltered ends up being a victim while perpetrator is the violator....more info
  • I really liked this movie
    I saw this movie on HBO a couple of days ago and I really enjoyed it. It really shows the vapidness of the SoCal culture. A lot of reveiwers are criticizing it because they say its derivative of other movies but since I haven't seen those other movies, I can only say what I have seen.

    The actors are unknown and do a great job. I would highly recommend it. I was surprised about how much I really liked it....more info
  • Alpha Dog realistically portrays criminal ennui
    Based on the true Jesse James Hollywood story, writer/director Nick Cassavetes' "Alpha Dog" is at least as good as most true crime books in convincingly portraying the triggers that led to the central crime and recreating the atmosphere surrounding events.
    In this case, the crime is the real-life spontaneous kidnapping of a 15-year-old boy over a drug debt, which spirals further out of control, with ruinous consequences for most of those involved.
    Justin Timberlake, playing Franki, Anton Yelchin, as Zack, and Shawn Hatosy, as Elvis, give the movie's strongest performances. For those who are critical of Sharon Stone because they find her implausible, there are such mothers out there, and they carry some of the responsibility for their children's failures, and that's the point.
    As a published true crime author, I found "Alpha Dog" extremely successful in blaming horrible parenting and in showing how many people can witness a tragedy in progress without attempting to do anything to stop it. These are facts of real life that happen repeatedly in real life crimes.
    The twist in "Alpha Dog" is that when someone actually does half-heartedly try to get help, the parents decline to give it. This left me wondering if anyone would have actually helped in other cases where teens have been criticised for failing to do anything to stop a heinous crime.
    Like many movies, "Alpha Dog" makes rampant drug use, alcohol abuse and sex for its own sake look like fun. It would be nice to see more movies evoke the less pleasant consequences of these choices. It would be nice to see these choices romanticized less often, or at least shown more realistically.
    The movie is heavy-handed in places and not all of the acting is especially good but it succeeds in portraying a completely pointless crime and all of the listless, directionless, undisciplined, blind lives surrounding it.
    "Alpha Dog" is heavy on drug use, profanity, violence, sex and nudity -- but, then again, so were the real life events on which it is based.
    Once again, it seems that some reviewers slam the movie because they are offended by what it portrays. What it portrays is offensive, no question -- but that's the point. If you don't want to know about the ugliness that sets people up to get more easily sucked into murder than they would have ever predicted, then don't watch this movie or others from the genre. ...more info
  • Ruff! Ruff!
    Many films have been made of this sort of nature. This is slightly the better ones that had a thought provoking story based on actual events leaving some of the acting to be questionable. This film is based on Jesse James Hollywood case in real life. The film takes place in the year 1999 and the director really captures it. The film feels very real. Jesse James Hollywood character kidnaps his friend's younger brother "Zack" because his older brother Jake Mazursky, played Ben Foster, owes money for drugs. Timberlake and the Jesse James H. character treat him with a good time with girls, beer, marijuana, and parties. "Zack is having a great time but Zacks parents are worried sick and Zacks older brother goes crazy trying to look for him to the point that he's about to pop a vain......seriously. At the same time Jesse James H. is so worried and does not know what to do.

    The cast of this film seems to have been scientifically designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience. There are actors here that will bring in both those who prefer established Hollywood as well as young, pop stars with names familiar to the younger set. Some have roles that are little more than cameos but it is fun to try to pick them all out. Sharon Stone gives an uneven performance as Zach's worried mother. She's quite believable in a family dinner scene, then over the top and practically unrecognizable at the end of the film when trying to express the mother's feelings about the crime. Although Bruce Willis appears only briefly as Johnny's father, he convinces us of his enabling parental behavior. If I have to choose the only actors that stood out to me were Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, and Ben Foster who done a great job with his out bursting role. Timberlake gets across just the right mix of charm and dimwittedness to totally convince us in this film.

    "Alpha Dog" does suffers some uneven direction, but Cassavetes has achieved a portrait of the type of youth spawned by a litigious, ethically lax society. The only issues I have with the movie are the fact that it's funnier than it should be, the tattoos all look way too new and bright to be real, and some of the split scene work was a little extemporaneous. Overall I really feel that I should have more to say about Alpha Dog but either A) It's not worth that many words or B) I'm losing my touch. But if I had to sum it up I would say that if Alpha Dog took itself a little more seriously you would have an excellent film. As it stands, it's worth a rental just to see Justin Timberlake grow as an actor and a really over the top (in a good way) performance from Ben Foster.
    ...more info
  • Despite the Horrifying Material, the Film is Well Made
    ALPHA DOG is a tough movie to watch and to review. The story, in part because it is true, is repugnant, and the slice of life in 1999 in the San Gabriel Valley, California is disturbing to the point of nausea. But this heinous kidnap/murder of a 15-year-old kid by his peers is captured in an intense manner by writer/director Nick Cassavetes in the way he has cast, directed, and propelled this story of the infamous Jesse James Hollywood to the screen. It is tough to watch but it needed to be put in front of us to make us examine current parenting/adolescent dysfunction and the possible results.

    The story is so well known that summarizing it is most likely unnecessary. Cassavetes uses the superimposed documentary technique to validate the times and the characters involved in this crime ridden case. The true problem begins with severely dysfunctional parenting and extends into the drug and alcohol abusing, moneyed by crime, irreverent amoral teenagers driven by greed and lack of self discipline that results in the wasted death of a kid who happened to be the brother of one of the troubled, drug addled teenies: a 15-year-old was kidnapped and murdered for a bad drug debt of $1200.! The cast is strong and includes Emil Hirsch as Johnny (the Alpha Dog), Justin Timberlake, Shawn Hatosy, Fernando Vargas, and Vincent Kartheiser as Johnny's 'gang'; Ben Foster as the addicted debtor whose brother Anton Yelchin is killed; and Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, David Thornton, and Harry Dean Stanton as some of the severely dysfunctional parents. They make a fine ensemble cast, especially the despicable characters they are asked to portray.

    The language is wholly gutter oriented and becomes tiresome - just like listening to it on our streets. Cassavetes ends his film with a survey of the consequences faced by each of the characters and that helps bring closure to an otherwise difficult bit of history to swallow. If only there were some hopeful solutions for changing this type of behavior given, but then that might have blunted in impact of the film. Grady Harp, May 07...more info
  • Just okay
    I guess this film was okay. I'm glad I didn't see this in theater. This movie was pointless. Just a bunch of kids that had nothing to do except party. Well, Alpha Dog is about a guy named Johnny, who is a drug dealer,his friend Jake owes him money. Since Jake doesn't pay. Johnny and his friends kidnap his younger brother brother. **spoiler begginning**They kill him but in the end, they all get caught, no big deal, it is a true story.**Spoiler End** This movie is not worth $20.00 bucks. Take it or leave it. ...more info
  • A true story that is well told
    While Hollywood has always done a great job at bringing fiction to life,what is always remarkable is to see a true story be turned into a film. No matter what kind of story or film,true stories deserve to be documented in a film,with a lot being learned as a result.

    One of 2006's most successful films,"Alpha Dog",is proof of the paragraph above.

    Here,"Alpha Dog" documents everything that lead to Jesse James Hollywood becoming one of the youngest men to ever appear on the FBI's ten most wanted list. Writer/director Nick Cassavetes does this by taking the true event and turning it easily into a plot. The plot is about a teenager named Jake Mazursky(Ben Foster),who has been hanging out with the wrong people and making the wrong decisions in his teenage years. Time after time,Jake has been able to be saved and take the easy way out. But one day,Jake Marzursky finds himself not to be so lucky. Things,regularly,would not be so bad. But,when the drug dealer that Jake Marzursky owes money to,Johnny Truelove (the Jesse James Hollywood character,who is portrayed by Emile Hirsch with suspense and knowledge)kidnaps his step-brother Zack (Anton Yelchin),will Jake be able to take the easy way out again,or has his wrong decisions lead to things going too far this time around? There are only two things that will tell--time and how important decisions are made.

    While "Alpha Dog" may not earn Oscars,on the whole,it is a really good film. It does a good job at covering the whole Jesse James Hollywood case-being accurate,while not telling the whole case like a novel. With his direction of "Alpha Dog",Nick Cassavetes does a strong job at telling viewers like it is. This is by Cassavetes throwing in a lot of suspense and not allowing his film to become an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" or "America's Most Wanted". At the same time,"Alpha Dog" does a good job at getting a message out to its viewers of all ages,and does not contain what it gave it an R rating for the sake of it. It contains what gave it an R rating to show what the lives of the teenagers that the Jesse James Hollywood case and "Alpha Dog" revolve around,in a manner that works for what it is and does not go overboard. A lot of powerful acting is also to be found here in "Alpha Dog",which is a large contribution as to how this film turned out to be as good and successful as it did.

    Overall,a film that does a perfect job at covering one of the worst and saddest crimes ever to be committed,and works well as both a true story and a film. Go into this film being prepared and having an open mind,and you will find yourself enjoying "Alpha Dog".
    ...more info
  • underrated morality tale ripped from today's headlines
    Although many of the actual names and locations have been changed for the movie, Nick Cassavetes' "Alpha Dog" tells the largely fact-based story of a particularly heinous homicide that took place in Southern California in the summer of 2000 (changed to the fall of 1999 for the film). The crime involved a group of young drug dealers who kidnapped, then eventually murdered, the 15-year-old brother of a fellow drug dealer who owed the ringleader money and who, largely out of stubbornness and pride, refused to pay up the debt. After the discovery of the body, most of the perpetrators were convicted and sent to prison, but the mastermind, Jesse James Hollywood (called Johnny Truelove in the movie), managed to flee to South America where, in 2005, he was eventually arrested and sent back to the States to face trial on the charge of murder-in-the-first-degree.

    "Alpha Dog" provides a grim, depressing look at the dark underbelly of American society where amoral, disenfranchised and disaffected youth play life-and-death games with drugs and guns, often with tragic consequences. In the case of this story, what begins almost as a spontaneous lark suddenly turns into deadly serious business as events begin to spiral further and further out of control and the story races ever more rapidly to its pre-ordained and inexorably tragic conclusion. Cassavetes has written a tight script that captures the fast-paced, drug-soaked milieu in which these young people do their "business." Yet, even though a number of the boys display a callous disregard for life, there are others who see the wrongness of what they are doing but who, through fear or misplaced loyalty or simply a belief that things "would never really go that far," fail to put the brakes on the whole sordid affair before it is too late. It is in that context that Truelove relinquishes his role as the main focal point of the film in favor of Frankie Ballenbacher, a cheerfully sardonic wise guy whose job it is to watch over the boy while Johnny figures out what next to do with him. As Frankie becomes more and more attached to the kid, it becomes harder and harder for him to comply with Johnny's ultimate order of liquidating him. Frankie, thus, becomes the emotional buy-in point for the audience, even more so than the kidnapped boy himself.

    There are fine performances by Emile Hirsch, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Foster ("Six Feet Under"), Bruce Willis, Harry Dean Stanton and Sharon Stone, among others, but it is Justin Timberlake, as the high-strung but basically goodhearted Frankie, who walks off with the film. In his every moment on screen, the charismatic Timberlake brings an intensity, shrewdness and liveliness to his performance that bodes well for his future career in movies.

    In his direction, Cassavetes generates a starkness of vision and moodiness of tone that are greatly enhanced by the brooding, darkly-lit camerawork of French cinematographer Robert Fraisse.

    The movie has a few weaknesses. The faux-interview scenes, which Cassavetes periodically interjects into the film, don't do much to enhance the storyline and succeed only in confusing the audience and interrupting the action. Moreover, the ending comes upon us much too abruptly, depriving us of a sense of completion and catharsis, particularly in regards to Frankie's apprehension and feelings of remorse over what he did, as well as the older brother's reaction to the discovery of his sibling's body. And there are sporadic rare moments, mainly in the early part of the film, where one gets the sense that the cast members are "playacting" rather than truly inhabiting their parts. But these impressions are few and very fleeting and, for the most part, the actors do an admirable job of conveying the down-and-dirty reality of the life they are portraying.

    "Alpha Dog" turns the spotlight on a subset of society we may not want to admit is there but which nonetheless exerts a tremendous negative influence on all our lives. The film serves as both an alarm signal and a wakeup call that we ignore at our own peril. ...more info
  • I was surprised with this one
    I read mixed reviews on this one and decided to give it a shot. Long story short, I bought it after seeing it.

    I knew the story about what had happened in 1999 ahead of time and decided to see it put on the big screen. I loved this movie! I really felt for the kid at the end of the movie. The director really made you like him and you find yourself hoping that they let the kid go but knowing the true story it makes you queasy knowing what lies ahead for the poor kid. If you had no idea about the true story you would think Timberlake would of let the kid go at the end and then the good ole happy ending comes true.............nope!

    Speakings of Justin Timberlake, I can't stand his music (makes me puke) but his acting skills are incredible! I saw him in Edison Force with Morgan Freeman and I was impressed with him then. With all these 1 dimensional actors like Tom Cruise, Owen Wilson, Keanu Reeves, and Nic Cage , I'd actually rather watch J.T. to be honest with ya.

    Awesome movie, I bought it, and will watch it again and again....more info
  • Move over Disturbia, make room for Alpha Dog
    Alpha Dog is one of the better films I've seen in 2007. There is no central character as such but most characters are rather absorbing. Bruce Willis has no role in the film, Justin Timberlake was actually good but the most harrowing of acts was done by a man called Ben Foster. It's interesting because this wanna be of sorts knows he has nothing to lose - his act in the film is great. Ben Foster is very convincing as "Jake Mazursky" in this film. He's a little mad in the film, likes to take fist shots at people, will go to any length to procure drugs and to save his job. The girls in the film hardly mattered but I liked the mother who slaps Ben Foster. There are a few scenes in the film which will made me raise my left eyebrow. The end made me go gulp. Alpha Dog is worth watching - it's a pretty good tale of how things go wrong and is reminiscent of films like Juice, 11:14 and Bully - while definitely being better. Where Alpha Dog loses out is at not being as consistently forthright at "Running Scared"

    Nonetheless Alpha Dog alongwith "Black Snake Moan" is one of the best films I've seen this year but "Zodiac" remains on top. Watch this and look out for Justin Timberlake....more info
  • Insane, wild ride of a movie
    "Alpha Dog" is not a film I would've picked out myself at the video store. My husband did. Now that i actually decided to give it a shot, I found it quite interesting yet the ending, to me, was very unfulfilling.
    It is based on true events. In the L.A. area, drugs, drinking, and sex is running amok and Justin Timberlake is in it. He is actually a pretty good actor. He can swear a meanstreak! There is wayyyy to much swearing in this movie. I don't think there is more than 20 seconds of dialogue without a curse word coming out of someone's mouth.
    This is an insane film! To think this is all true. Well, I'm sure there was some embellishment. A kid is 'stolen' because his psycho punk of a half brother owes someone money. It takes awhile to get to that point, so the beginning sort of falls a bit flat.
    At the conclusion, there are holes. Well, one big hole but I am not one of those reviewers that spoil it for others.
    If you like fast, swear filled films with lots of drinking, drugs, fights, and sex involving young beautiful people, this is right up your alley!
    Stars include Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake, and Harry Dean Stanton.
    Eileen F....more info
  • Disturbing but a great true story
    The fact that the story is true makes the movie more disturbing. Actually a great film in HD. The visuals are great and the story and acting is very good. The lead character is a wimpy coward and Timberlake plays it well.
    The Combo HD DVD is a great deal and a good addition to your HD collection....more info
  • Great Movie
    Alpha Dog is a really great movie. Emile Hirsch did a great job as always and for you Justin Timberlake fans, this was a really good performance by him. JT is the man in this, and the nice guy. I would recommend this to anyone that likes a good kidnapping movie, but be forwarnd, if you get sad or cry real easily then you probably shouldn't get this because something huge happens and its not very funny....more info
  • Alpha Dog
    The Not-Too-Revealing-Synopsis:

    This based on a true story film is a scene by scene chonology buildup of a crime that put a young man on the FBI's most wanted list. A dispute over money breaks out between two suburbia drug dealers. Antagonism and violence escalate to areas unexplored by the two sides and one's kid brother gets caught up in the middle.


    The California white boy drug dealer scene is portrayed both glorifyingly and mockingly in this film. The creative and very effective use of captions under characters provides a sense of foreboding that is especially disturbing given the free-for-all easy party life most of the characters appear to be living. The movie really explores how exactly such a crime could happen to people who never really wanted it to. In all those regards the movie has a subtle artistic success but it really is not that entertaining to watch. The roles of some of the more well known actors are minor and disappointing. I dreaded watching Justin Timberlake but was surprised with his performance. I think many reviewers are reluctant to give a poor rating to a movie based on a sad, true story but I found no reason why this story needed to be made into a major motion picture. Read an article or a more revealing summary and you will learn as much as through watching the film in a far shorter time....more info
  • What every parent doesn't want in one movie
    Watching Alpha Dog reminded me of the Larry Clark films like Kids or Bully and others like Havoc where we see just exactly youngsters are doing when away from parents and not being given enough ground rules and restrictions. Problem is that a lot of it seems kind of phony and a little off-the-mark, like this is just what adults think youngsters are actually doing rather than what they really do. Sure a bulk of them swear and smoke, drink and have lots of sex but it's presented like this came from someone who grew up in the 1950's and the idea of a marijuana-smoking kid is just the worst thing possible. The film has the right idea but like those other films, it just doesn't quite get it.

    Based on the real story of Jesse James Hollywood, the film tells the story of Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch of The Girl Next Door), a young drug dealer in L.A with a small entourage (including Justin Timberlake). When a local named Jake (Ben Foster, Angel in X-Men 3) can't pay Truelove an amount of money, Johnny takes initiative and kidnaps Jake's younger brother Zack but instead of Zack hating it and being held against his will, he actually embraces the lifestyle. But things get out of hand and pretty soon something tragic happens leaving everyone around Johnny affected.

    First, I'll start with the acting. Hirsch is actually quite good at playing Truelove, a kind of "talk big but can't back it up" kid who has to have people around him to show off how tough he is. But for people, the big question mark is Timberlake, since he was an Nsync member and seems to want to be the next Michael Jackson but here he's actually quite good, playing a character who's both clueless yet seems to be the only one who has a conscience and good sense around him. The rest of the acting is alright but no one really stands out. Ben Foster almost overacts the whole thing and screams his head off and Sharon Stone does the same thing. We get familiar tv faces from the shows Angel to Veronica Mars to Joan of Arcadia.

    The story itself is at times interesting but in subtext terms, it's seriously lacking. This is one of those films where the message is "lots of kids are messed up" but it never says just how these kids got to be this way and if there's anyway to remedy this. Do we just hope as in Timberlake's case that they will eventually realize their wrong ways or are they just like Zack, so caught up in the glamour of drugs and the girls who think it's "cool and sexy" that you're kidnapped that you don't realize what you're doing until it's too late.

    It's not really a bad film by any means but as a study into the youth of today it falls flat and as entertainment it passes, but just moderately....more info
  • Decent and Watchable Suburban Piece
    Alpha Dog is the fictionalized account of a true murder story in the Los Angeles burbs around the turn of this century. Local weed-slinger Johnny Truelove is the diminutive late teen leader of a group of aimless good-timers who together enjoy the spoils of Johnnys illict mini-empire which is supplied by John's dad, Bruce Willis. Like most burb dope dealers, there are debts, problems and grudges. Some of Johnny's debtors become indentured sycophants who do his housework to work off their dope debts. Another debtor bucks on Johnny's attempts at control and his pseudo-crimelord role and causes a beef that culminates in the "kidnapping" of the debtors younger brother.

    Great look at the lack of (decent)parental guidance and big chested dealer role playing that Johnny painted himself into a corner with and in the end felt he had to live up to.

    Emile Hircsh is believable in the title role. Justin Timberlake not nearly bad as expected and Harry Dean Stanton nice in his appearance as Johnny's criminal minded grandpa. ...more info
  • Outstanding cautionary tale, a message to the madness
    "Alpha Dog" presents us with the image of a group of teens, and we should rightfully ask, is this the director's, is this the writers' depiction of post-modern American youth, the portrait of a generation, or is it merely the documentary presentation of one group of teens in California circa 1999? If it is the former, then they are making a bold and broad statement indeed. Because we have not seen a picture of youth so enormously depraved and rudderless since the young ruffians of "A Clockwork Orange". In the past we saw crime arise in the American landscape due to the effects of stultifying poverty, and film has done an admirable job of chronicling this cause and effect. In "Alpha Dog" the equation is altogether different. These kids have too much money. What they suffer from, what they have not the least faintest idea of--is the influence of a moral example in their lives. These parents, with the exception of young Zach's mother, are enveloped in careless lives of hedonistic selfishness, and they transmit this pattern of living with devastating effect to their offspring, with the result that their children's characters become the likenesses of amoral wasteland which they observe so clearly in their elders. The father treats the teenage son like a drinking buddy, a partner in debauchery, then upbraids him in the morning for not paying rent. Kids do not feel loved, so they seek to fill the emptiness with narcotics; they seek the twisted empowerment of a thug's life. Cassavetes does very well in capturing the chain of cause and effect from parent to child and the ramifications of generational neglect and parental abdication. That this is so egregiously obvious is in the depiction of the teens' socializing--there is no attempt(save the exception of Zack), as there usually is with teenagers, to cover up or conduct their excursions into vice on the sly, for fear of being discovered and punished. Rather the teens immerse themselves in debauchery, in broad daylight, not even reveling in it, as simply just going about their business, with not even the slightest notion that they might in fact be chastised or taken into account for their behavior. Again one wonders whether this is an accurate estimate of the lives of a majoirty of American teens, or simply a case study in itself.
    All in all, despite its flaws, this is a very good film, heartrending and sad, one almost totally suffused through and through with tragedy and evil. To my mind there were some marvelous performances. One earlier reviewer, whose piece I respect very much as a fine analysis of the film, characterized Ben Foster's performance as one of the film's chief liabilities. I feel it is one of the film's greatest strengths--a powerful performance of equal parts desperation, rage and intensity, it cemented the whole film for me. From his growing body of work we can see that Foster is one of our finest up-and-coming young actors. Is he over the top in his reading of Jake? As the earlier reviewer put it, Jake is, after all, a psycho--but then why wouldn't his character, mentally warped and then his neuroses inflamed so much the more by narcotics, be over the top in some sense? Moreover, his performance for me exuded a magnitude of intensity, rather than gratuitous bravado, as an over-the-top character might. Moreover, as the earlier reviewer pointed out, the film's emphasis was upon the ramifications of parental irresponsibility, rather than a celebration of teen hedonism and violence--and indeed, it is this irresponsibility which is the truest culprit of the whole film. The shocking irony was that the only child of the only parent who was really interested in being a parent, perhaps too much so, was murdered. How terrible--and Justin Timberlake will in fact attract teens to this film, with the question presenting itself, will they understand it to be a study of the consequences of parental irresponsibility, or will they merely take the film's gratuitous and repugnant depiction of teen debauchery as the standard definition of adolescence? Who can tell, other than to say our prayers go out to the mother of this poor boy who was killed. The carelessness and selfishness of those who perhaps never should have been parents clearly bears unspeakably tragic consequences for all of society and most ironically, as "Alpha Dog" reveals, for those parents who try conscientiously to protect their children from the senseless evil of kids whose aimless and neglected lives have given them no moral compass to live by. An excellent cautionary tale to all parents, ever more powerful because it is true, but aside from its real artistic merits the film will serve a benevolent purpose if it is contemplated seriously by those parents whose conduct could benefit most from its message. ...more info
    2006. Written and directed by Nick Cassavetes. Los Angeles, a generation of irresponsible children and parents, drugs and death. A frightening movie worth your attention....more info
  • Cassavetes Does An OK Job.
    "Alpha Dog" is not as bad as I was expecting it to be. Written and directed by Nick Cassavetes, son of Indie maverick director John and actress Gena Rowlands, this film works on some levels and not on others. This seems to be par for the course for this director, who has had mixed success with his films. Best as a visual reenactment of the events surrounding the crime, "Dog" tells a shocking story.

    The Inland Empire. 1999.

    Johnny (Emile Hirsch) is a young hoodlum who runs a drug empire, selling the contraband his dad, Sonny (Bruce Willis) provides. Johnny is building a little empire of his own; owns his own home, has a posse of `friends' who hang around, party and get high, enforces his debts with the use of junior hit men, has a bunch of loose girls hanging around, the like. Dad and Grandpa (Harry Dean Stanton) treat Johnny like the adult he is, prodding him to "get some tail" and to forget about his steady girlfriend. Life is too short. One evening, Jake (Ben Foster) arrives, strung out, to talk to Johnny. He is unable to collect a debt owed to Johnny and now Johnny holds him responsible. Jake becomes angry and threatens Johnny. The next day, Johnny threatens Jake's job by calling his boss and telling him about Jake's drug use and the violence escalates. Later, Johnny and his crew, including Franki Ballenbacher (Justin Timberlake) and Tiko Martinez (Fernando Vargas) are driving around and spot Jake's younger brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin) walking around. They snatch him and decide to use him as a hostage, until his older brother forks over the money. But Zack actually enjoys the company of the older guys and goes along willingly and also enjoys the local notoriety of being a hostage. But Johnny doesn't have anywhere to hold Zack and they make the circuit of all of their friends, paying them off in weed and/ or attention. When Olivia (Sharon Stone) hears Zack, her son, has been kidnapped, she becomes distraught. When she learns Jake, her step-son may be responsible, she goes ballistic.

    "Alpha Dog" is set-up as a faux documentary. The film opens with an off-camera interviewer questioning Sonny (Willis) about his son and we quickly learn the real reason behind the events of this tragedy; no parental supervision. As Sonny speaks, we quickly realize he should have been given an involuntary vasectomy. As the story progresses, the various days and times appear onscreen, to help us navigate the events. Also, as new people enter the story, we see their name, and in some cases "Witness #1". As the number of characters increases, so does the number of witnesses. If this film presents a fairly accurate depiction of the events surrounding this story, the number of people who participated in the abduction, or saw Zack, or could've helped by calling the police is simply staggering. But considering the fact most of the people are young, frequently high or drunk, and have little supervision and too much money, it is, well... still simply staggering.

    Emile Hirsch plays Johnny and he does a good job of showing the character's toughness, bravado and a need to maintain a certain image. He isn't as tough as he looks and uses his posse of friends to make him appear more formidable. Even among his friends, he is more talk than anything else. But he has been exposed to too much easy money and too little supervision, so he runs a bit wild. Naturally, kidnapping the younger kid seems like a perfectly natural solution to his problem; he needs to get Jake to pay him the money he owes; most importantly, to maintain his image, but also because it is a lot of money. Jake is a psycho, so he comes up with what seems like the only plausible solution.

    Justin Timberlake plays Frankie, Johnny's good friend. Initially, he goes along with the idea, more out of novelty, but as the situation starts to turn dark, he becomes less interested in helping out.

    Shawn Hatosy pays Elvis, one of Johnny's friends, who also owes him some money. Unable to pay him back, Johnny has him perform housekeeping and other chores in his house, in front of their other friends, as a way to demean them. Later, he takes on a job for Johnny, clearly meant to erase his outstanding debt. This is one of the more interesting characters in the story; throughout Johnny and his friends demean Elvis, slinging insults at him, yet he sticks around, so desperate for their `friendship'. When he ultimately agrees to do something for Johnny, it makes sense. His soul is that empty and he is that hungry for attention.

    Bruce Willis does a good job of portraying one of the worst parents ever to appear in a film. From his first comments, at the opening of the film, we quickly realize this is not a man we would ever want around our kids. He and Stanton make a good team, quickly illustrating the reason Johnny has turned out as screwed up as he is.

    Anton Yelchin is also good as Zack, Jake's younger brother. He feels smothered by his mother, so he actually thrives on being around a group of kids his older brother's age. When they learn who he is, and why he is hanging around, he becomes a sort of mini celebrity. People who are older and probably deemed `cooler' suddenly want to hang around him. It also makes him catnip to a couple of older girls, who clearly are attracted to the young celebrity.

    If all of the performances were of this caliber, the film would be a lot better. But then we have Sharon Stone and Ben Foster, both of whom do some serious scenery chewing. Ben Foster plays Jake, the strung out step-son of Olivia, played by Sharon Stone. Foster plays the role broad, very broad. Michael Caine once said if you play drunk, it will look like you are playing 'drunk'. His words are very true, because whenever he plays a drunken character, he seems like a real person who has just had too much to drink. His actions seem authentic. When an inexperienced actor plays drunk, they toddle around; slur their words, bump into things and act like a drunken cartoon character. Foster could've benefited from following Caine's advice. From the moment he first appears on screen, he looks and acts like a "strung out drug dealer". He plays the role way over the top. Even when he is at work, he is clearly strung out. When Johnny calls his boss to inform on Jake, we are amazed that his boss didn't pick up on it before he received a confidential call. Sharon Stone plays Zack's mother and clearly dotes on her son, perhaps because she is thankful he didn't turn out like Jake. Before he is even kidnapped, she is way over the top, almost to the point where she might start cutting up her son's food and feeding it to him. Zack rebels by hanging out with Jake and his drunken girlfriend, smoking, hiding a bong in his room. When he is kidnapped, she is naturally distraught, but she almost starts flailing about, her arms waving wildly. These are not subtle performances and bring the rest of the film down.

    Throughout the film, various kids go to their parents, looking to talk about the situation, looking for advice, trying to get some help, but they don't get far. One kid knocks on her mother's door, interrupting her having sex with her husband on their anniversary. "Mom, can I talk to you for a moment?" "I just asked for one night to make love to my husband, one f***ing night of the year" before she slams the door. This is not the only time something like this happens and it only serves to slam the message home; these people need to get some counseling on how to behave like human beings.

    This is not a film for immature teenagers to see, despite the appearance of Justin Timberlake, which will, no doubt, draw a lot of teenagers to the box office. There is a lot of material that would be unsuitable for many ages and maturity levels; drug use, nudity, swearing, treatment, violence and more.

    "Alpha Dog" works best as a sort of chronicle of this event, showing the who, what, why and where of the situation. The performances are mixed to adequate, and serve the story, but the two over the top performances by Stone and Foster bring the film down a couple of notches.
    ...more info
  • WOW.
    This movie is AMAZING. When you watch this movie, you also learn about the REAL story behind it. The acting is great. Im gonna buy this as soon as i can. ...more info
  • Whoa...I wasn't expecting that...
    A lot of aspects of this film surprised me beginning with Justin Timberlake's performance. Only for the first very few seconds that he was on screen was I thinking "wow, there's that little nancy boy from N*SYNC", after that I only thought of him as the character he was portraying...Excellent work, I only hope he continues to do more "edgy" work like this and doesn't return to pablum...Secondly, though it was based on a true story I guess I was surprised that the film ended the way it did...I kept saying to myself "there's no way these kids can be THAT dumb" and again and again they kept upping the stupidity level...The film would have been better off if it just plain eliminated the "documentary" portions which only interrupt the story and pacing...Otherwise a slick and jarring indictment of modern youth (and especially white, privledged) culture......more info
  • Worth A Look
    This one catches you by surprise. It starts off pleasantly enough with the Lifestyles Of The Rich, Young and Drug Dealing. But before you know it the makings of a disaster are all in place. Given the unassuming opening, the viewer is inclined to think it will all turn out well -- just in time for yet another pool party. But after that first step down the slippery slope, events tumble out of control to a surprising and memorable conclusion. ...more info
    Johnny Truelove (Hirsch) is pushing weed to local teenagers and everything seems to be fine in his quiet life till his authority is questioned by a fascist jew(!) Mazursky (Foster) who furthermore is not giving Johnny back $1200 he borrowed. Truelove and his friends then kidnap Mazursky's 15-year-old brother Zack (Yelchin) and hold him as a hostage. Zack is OK with being a hostage - parties, booze, weed and girls are definately better than sitting home with wonk parents. Everybody's having a great time, kids fool around and it seems like we observe ordinary teenagers' life, only sometimes captions appear at the sides of the screen calling every new character number next witness. And it makes you feel uneasy. We know the film is based on true events, hence we know something bad will happen, but till the very end I personally refused to believe it actually will.

    Alpha Dog is a movie about a crime which was commited not by some malicious intent, but rather by an absolute bluntness and with a total recklessness of the characters involved. These 20-year-olds behave like small kids - having commited something bad they are afraid of upcoming punishment and descend deeper into crime. They don't believe themselves they're capable to do something terrible and they can't stop when it's not yet too late. They are just a bunch of silly kids hence the outcome is utterly disturbing although we saw it coming.

    Alpha Dog is a remarkable film, but to tell the truth - it's overshadowed by such works as The Chumscrubber or Bully. Nick Cassavetes did a great job, but still Larry Clark's movies, for instance, have a greater impact on you. Alpha Dog's impact is based more on the fact that all the ivents shown here really happened some time ago. And I'm sure they still take place in different corners of our world. So it's another flick for you if you want to know what modern youth is. It won't leave you indifferent for sure. ...more info
  • When the parents are away...
    The movie is based on the true story of the kidnapping of Zack Mazursky (Yelchin) by "drug dealer" Johnny Truelove(Hirsch) and his "posse". The basics is that they kidnap the 15 year-old kid so that his older brother pays up the 1200 dollars he owes Truelove. But the whole plan goes awry and Zack ends up being killed.

    In itself the movie isn't that original. It's themes we've already seen a million times : the disenchanted, bored youth who play drug dealers in California. But what makes this different is that it's a true story, and that fact alone turns the movie into a dark, almost horror, story that ends up haunting you and staying with you long after the end credits. This actually ends up saving the movie from itself, not turning it into another one of those horrible laugh-out-loud movies like "Havoc". What helps is also the opening credits, where when you reach the end you end up asking yourself "how did they get from there to here?"

    The acting is average. It's not bad but there aren't that many great performances. The breakout star in all of this would probably have to be Justin Timberlake who shows he can act and gives an emotional level to the story, without which the movie would be doomed. I think most of it has to do with the script though, because you seriously have to wonder if they actually talked like that. Sharon Stone is also fairly decent as Zack's mother, that is until the end. Another honorable mention would have to be Ben Foster who just chews up the script.

    But as Bruce Willis' character so insightfully points out, this movie is really about parenting...bad parenting at that. It's another movie that shows what happens when the parents don't give a damn and let their kids run all over the place and do whatever they want. But throughout the movie I also really wanted to slap the kids for taking stupidity to a whole new level, which is frightening considering it's based on a true story.
    The only other negative point about the movie is that it runs about 15 minutes too long, with Sharon Stone's last scene that fails to inspire compassion and sadness at the whole situation and ends up being just ridiculous.

    On the whole it's a decent movie worth seeing once and that won't leave you indifferent....more info
  • Ahhh, youth
    Surprisingly good take on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood's antics as a suburban drug dealer and his kidnapping a business colleague's younger brother to settle a debt. The names are changed but the story is very accurate. So accurate that the DA was removed from the case because he served as a consultant on the film and apparently leaked several unauthorized documents to director Nick Cassavettes.

    The performances alone make this one worth watching. Very strong turn-outs by Emille Hirsch as Johnny Truelove (Hollywood), Justin Timberlake as his loyal and good natured friend, but it's Ben Foster who nearly steals this entire film from everyone. One drawback to the film is that we never have any closure with Foster's character after everything goes down. I think the reason for this is because it is a true story. Another director may have taken a more commercial approach and given Foster a final scene to chew but Cassavettes holds true to the story and instead focuses on the wasted youth and the culture they live. It makes for a compelling argument that we parents who work hard to provide for our children must not forget the moral compass that must be taught as well.
    ...more info
  • Needs Some Work
    This is a really interesting story based on a real event. Though it does work in many ways, in many others it does not. Set up like a docudrama, this story follows drug using/drug dealing youths in California a few years ago. These white wanna be gangsters steal/drink/drugs/sex and even kill. When a dispute breaks out between two guys, one kidnaps the younger brother of the other leading into the meat of the story. It is quite riveting at times with mostly good performances. A lot of well known actors appear in this film, mostly in the lesser roles. I think the story tries to cover too much ground and I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending. Still I was entertained throughout and I would say to pick this one up. A movie along the same lines is Bully. ...more info
  • Disturbing, Yet Riveting
    ALPHA DOG, a disturbing film based on actual events, aptly illustrates the fact truth is stranger than fiction. A novelist would never be able to make a story like this up--or make it come across as plausible or believable. So because the film is based on a kidnapping/murder that actually occurred, writer/director Nick Cassavetes lets this riveting story play itself out--and fully incorporate a very real human component in the process.

    Interspersed with mock-documentary interviews, ALPHA DOG depicts out-of-control teens, punks, hoodlums, and lousy parents. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), a two-bit drug dealer, has a problem: one of his customers, Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster), is a deadbeat addict who simply can't, or won't, pay for the dope he's been getting from Johnny. And the more Johnny presses for cash, the more Jake pushes back, until there is nothing but animosity and hatred between them. Opportunity arrives when Johnny stumbles across 15-year-old Zack (Anton Yelchin), Jake's half-brother, and kidnaps him. The message to Jake is clear: pay for the dope. . .or else. Ironically, Zack is completely enjoying his "captivity", as Johnny's pal Frankie (Justin Timberlake) has been assigned to show Zack the ropes, and show him a good time while he's at it. Free from a smothering, overbearing mother (Sharon Stone), Zack is in a hog heaven of his own.

    Yet destiny intervenes. The captors learn they have some serious prison time awaiting them for what they have done; suddenly the urge to "off" their captive becomes a viable alternative. And at this point, the situation begins spinning out of control, as Johnny, Frankie, and their entourage are in over their heads, with very tragic consequences. The inevitable is very disturbing and painful to watch, but it is also riveting and acutely compelling.

    Everything about ALPHA DOG is riveting, from direction to dialogue (which is very realistic). The large cast excels; Justin Timberlake is surprisingly good; Ben Foster aggressively soaks up the oxygen in every scene he's in (he's over the top in a very believable way). Veterans Bruce Willis, Harry Dean Stanton, and Sharon Stone appear in supporting roles--Stone (in a fat suit and virtually unrecognizable) particularly memorable as the subject of the mock interviews. ALPHA DOG is all too tragic, all too human. . .all too real.
    --D. Mikels, Author, The Reckoning...more info
  • Bad Dog! No Treat!
    If a movie can't find something interesting to say, then it should at least be interesting to watch. "Alpha Dog" is neither.

    I don't fault the film for having absolutely no likeable characters. The world is full of unlikable characters (I may even be one of them), and as this particular movie is based on a true story, it's not a surprise that most of the people we get to watch are irresponsible and self-absorbed jerks. (And no wonder: they all live in Southern California.

    Teasing! I'm teasing!)

    Anyway, the story's pretty simple. We have an underaged drug dealer, Johnny Truelove, whose authority is questioned by a strung-out customer, Jake Mazursky. Johnny has none of that, so he throws him through a glass table and then through a glass patio door. This, understandably, upsets Mazursky, who breaks into Johnny's home several nights later, smashes the place up, and befouls the rug. Things are escalating, you see, which is what things tend to do when you are simultaneously young, dumb, doped up, and handed far more freedom than you deserve.

    The movie doesn't really get going until Johnny makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to kidnap Mazursky's younger brother, Zach, and hold him hostage until the drug debt is paid. Zach, in spite of the many chances he has to escape, never does. Why? Well, he's fifteen, surrounded by free booze, drugs, and hot underaged girls who think it's "cool" that Zach has been "stolen." Is this the message that Cassavetes is trying to convey? That the younger generations willfully and ignorantly embrace their own destruction? If so, I would encourage the filmmaker to stick with acting.

    Because, aside from the ultimately gruesome nature of the conclusion (let's not call it a surprise; every character that appears on-screen who isn't a part of the kidnapping is given a number and labelled a witness), this is a story that has little to recommend it. Most of the flick is obviously slanted toward a demographic that wants to live vicariously through the music video lifestyle depicted on-screen. Copious amounts of drugs, tanned teens in too-short shorts, and fresh-faced Zach wandering through it all with a dopey smile on his face, amazed at his luck.

    I'd give the film one star for it's ludicrous attempt to be important (I'd happily debate anyone who claims the movie has any kind of serious or worthwhile message), if it weren't for the pretty decent acting. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Justin Timberlake as the well-meaning but mostly-moronic Frankie is the real stand-out here. (My only real problem with the actors was Ben Foster, who overacts so much I have to wonder how many blood vessels the fellow popped during filming.) Even the filming itself (aside from the flawed and unnecessary split screening) isn't half bad.

    Alas, that doesn't make it good. Decadence and decay are truly film-worthy subjects, but slapping them silly with the harsh smoke and glittering poolwaters of a SoCal home, reflecting them off of the dull and moist eyes of stoned kids and ignorant lap dogs, well, it smacks of exploitation to me. When all was said and done, I never got the impression that "Alpha Dog" condemns the excesses of youth as much as it thrives on them. At the risk of sounding pompous, if I didn't learn anything from "Alpha Dog," I doubt any of its younger viewers will walk away enlightened, either....more info
  • Highly Entertaining
    I actually went into this movie expecting the worst, since I was told by a close friend of mine that this movie was absolutely horrible. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that my friend was DEAD wrong. Alpha Dog was highly entertaining, from beginning to end.

    Emile Hirsch was absolutely fantastic as Johnny Truelove, and he stole the show with his performance. But I must say, Justin Timberlake did an OUTSTANDING job as well. His performance was so believable, that you'd never know in a million years that he hasn't been acting all of his life.

    This movie was based on a very compelling, real life story, which made watching the movie even more intense.

    If you're thinking of watching this movie, but haven't seen it yet, because someone told you it stinks, think again. 4 stars all the way....more info
  • Say Goodbye to Hollywood.
    I stumbled across Alpha Dog the other night on cable and found myself wrapped up in the true life teen gangster story along the lines of Larry Clark's Bully, although lighter and funnier. Dog is filled with young acting talent reminiscent of The Outsiders - The Complete Novel (Two-Disc Special Edition) combined with strong seasoned performances by Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, and Harry Dean Stanton.

    Dog, directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook (New Line Platinum Series)), who also played bad guy Packard Walsh in the so bad it's good 80's movie The Wraith. Amazon already does an informative write up, which talks about Cassavetes own run in with the law for his contact with the real life character behind Johnny Truelove, still on the F.B.I's ten most wanted list at the time of the film. I found that interesting. Although I disagree with their interpretation of Foster's character Jake, which I'll address.

    The story, based on actual events, follows a group of suburban kids who watch music videos, act tough, drink 40's, smoke cheeba, disrespect people, and talk shiite. The leader of this crew is Johnny Truelove played by Emile Hirsch, who seems to get better with every role, and gives his best performance a year later in Into the Wild. Johnny is a smooth manipulator but gets most of his respect from his family ties, also surrounding himself with idiots doesn't hurt.

    In this movie of solid performances it is Ben Foster's Jake Mazursky that steals the spotlight, as he did in similar fashion from Russel Crowe and Christian Bale in the western 3:10 to Yuma (Widescreen Edition) with his portrayal of Charlie Prince. Amazon describes Foster's character Jake as a scum bag drug addict. I disagree. There is no doubt he has a drug problem, and problems in general, but in a time when most just talk trash, Jake actually follows through. In some aspects I saw him as a stand up guy, or would be without drugs, and has a fearlessness that other men can respect, under different circumstances he could have been a leader. Ben Foster does a great job showing rage in this part with words or without. Justin Timberlake also gives a good performance as the mostly obnoxious, with hints of charisma, Frankie Ballenbacher.

    The basic plot is Jake owes Johnny Truelove money. Johnny tries to disrespect Jake like he does with his other friends, but Jake isn't his other friends, and it continues to escalate from there. The crew decide to teach Jake a lesson and kidnap his younger brother, whom Jake is close with. This sets a chain of events sometimes fun and entertaining but ultimately tragic.
    ...more info
  • Alpha Dog Soup
    The trouble is that Emile Hirsch isn't up to being the "alpha dog" he's supposed to be playing, he's an interesting actor but he's no heavy, not even close, and his silly sideburns make him seem like he's playing in a comedy. It's like asking Jason Schwartzman to play the Al Pacino part, Jason's great and all, but he doesn't have the range, and neither does Emile Hirsch at this point.

    Justin is perfectly fine as Frankie but his performance is sort of like what Dr Johnson said about women preachers. Like a dog walking on its hind legs, it is not done well, but you are surprised to see it done at all, so you give Justin more points than he deserves. Actually he went through the whole movie with the gravitas of Russ Tamblyn in WEST SIDE STORY, and he resembles Tamblyn down to the natural grace and the shifting, loping walk. A few bars of "Gee Officer Krupke" would not have been out of line for Justin as "Frankle," Johnny Truelove's right hand man.

    What other reviewers have said here is all too true, the film is often very well done, but after BULLY, why make what is essentially the same film all over again? And why put Lukas Haas and Shawn Hatosy in the same parts they've been playing for the past 15 years? Cassavetes could have constructed their entire performances out of previous footage of the two actors, the way that sometimes now you see a new TV commercial featuring Fred Astaire running a Dust Devil across a messy living room....more info
  • Comedy Review of a serious movie
    Watch Video Here: While this is a serious film about what was truly a terrible tragedy (look it up online...), this is a SKETCH COMEDY MOVIE REVIEW. I improv comedy while giving an honest review of the film. Also, this is a review of the film NOT the DVD (so I don't cover the extras and so forth). Please enjoy!
    Other films released in theaters at the same time are also covered in this video review.
    ...more info
  • much better than I anticipated
    I must admit I went into the viewing of this film with much apprehension about the overall quality of what I was about to see. Surprisingly,this is a very strong film with several standout performances. When I originally picked it up my expectations were very low in regards to Justin Timberlakes performance,but let me just say he almost stole the show...almost. Ben Foster is the real scene stealer as the drug crazed Mazursky,and while other reviewers have said he was over the top, I found him quite convincing indeed. Like Kids,and Bully,the message is a strong one and makes parents like myself wonder just how much we really know about the lives of our teenagers when they are away from home. Bruce Willis left me feeling as if I needed a shower,he really played a good role as the sleazebag father of the main character, Johnny Truelove. I defenitely enjoyed the movie through and through, and being familiar with the case it was based upon so therefore knowing the ending per se,I was still shocked at the overall bluntness of the crime. Recommended highly....more info
  • You MUST give this movie a shot!
    I really loved this movie! It is refreshingly different from most other American films. Alpha dog has a great story, mostly very good acting and some really memorable moments.

    Justin Timberlake was very good here - to my great surprise - but the show belongs to Ben Foster. His "Jake Mazursky" is one of the most charismatic villains ever seen on film. Classic.

    The only thing that truly sucked was seeing Sharon Stone in that fat suit at the end. Man, what a joke! That scene was so bad it really hurt the movie. I am a real nice guy though, so I only deduct one star for it.

    Give it a shot!...more info
  • Spring, summer, spring, summer, you're done!
    This film is a wonderful example of what happens when the pursuit of those things, which in the long run just don't mean a whole heckuva lot, usurp our time to the exclusion of ALL else, and when all else begins to fail, we have no answers as to how to fix the problem, which has now grown out of control.This is "Alpha Dog".

    Through all the getting high, delinquent acts, drug dealing, partying and general uncontrolled mischief, the parents are TOTALLY to blame here.It was difficult to watch at times, because it is puzzling to me how long it took before ANY of these "parents" decided that enough was enough, and took steps to correct the problem! ILLEGALLY, even!
    These are hedonistic fools who have unwittingly created a class of people that have little to no regard for human life or anything else. Watching the film, I was captivated by the absolute disregard each of those kids had for specific things in their lives. Conventions are just something to be either broken or diregarded altogether.

    None of these kids give their parents any credit at all, and judging by their responses to this very sad of situations, the parents deserve the level of contempt shown them by their own children.
    When the situation escalates, it seems the decisions became more and more senseless and ridiculous. That a 15 year old boy died for a drug deal gone bad is a damning statement of the condition of American Society.

    Remember those kids in Florida in the 90's who murdered one of their own? The film "Bully" is an examination of that murder. This "phenomenon" is not new. Those kids in Florida had the SAME level of contempt that the kids in "Alpha Dog" had.

    This film is more a lesson for parents or prospective parents than the kids. Mind you, "Alpha Dog" was a CAPTIVATING bit of film. As a parent, it made ME think, and my kids are all grown and making their mark in society in a positive manner. The kids in "Alpha Dog" are at least three generations ahead my own, so there are absolute societal differences between them. Yet parenting has NOT changed in the thousands of years we have occupied this planet, so the blame I suppose, rests with the parents here.

    "Alpha Dog" and "Bully" are educational in that they show what to, and what not to do, when it comes to raising children, but hey, it was an entertaining bit of film, oh, yes!!...more info
  • A movie for stupid people
    This is an idiotic, stupid movie. It isn't even cool enough to romanticize, it is so dumb. Wow, it's too bad we've come to this. I used to think Justin Timberlake had a brain. Yikes, I'm sorry I spent the dollar on it at the Red Box at Giant. Wow, I thought we had really cheapened murder in Hollywood, but I had no idea until I saw this.
    ...more info
  • Harrowing
    I must confess that this movie was a pleasant surprise. First of all, forget that Justin Timberlake was a singer--he does a damn good job. All of the characters in this play excellent roles. It's just amazing that this is a true story. It's so possible and the ending so inevitable that this movie will hold you to the end.
    Excellent film--well worth watching....more info
  • Very entertaining
    I have yet to figure out why people feel it is their right to give away the entire plot of a movie in their "reviews". Bottom line...this is an underrated movie that will keep you thinking about it long after you're finished watching. Perhaps exaggerated in spots, but I was entertained throughout the entire film. I thought Timberlake would annoy me, but he actually played a decent role here. I'm shocked this went to DVD so quickly, it somehow flew under the radar but I'm glad I caught in the theaters. Some violence and bad language, but if you're not too easily offended it's a must see....more info
  • sometimes you never see it coming
    Sometimes a good movie can come out of nowhere and really surprise you, even when you've read the description for said movie beforehand and get a picture in your mind what the plot is going to be like. Alpha Dog is that movie.

    While it takes a long time for the story to eventually get going, the story is about a group of young gang adults who kidnap a younger guy who's part of another gang (two enemy gangs clashing). Of course, once the other gang finds out one of their guys has been kidnapped, they understandably get angry. That's exactly what happens here.

    The violence is really extreme for the most part. There's lot of fighting going on ALL the time. The same can be said for the swear words. I've NEVER heard so many F words used in all my life! Just about every sentence you will hear them. If that bothers you, don't even think about watching the movie.

    But what made the story so interesting was how a good amount of time was devoted on the main characters, so you always know who was who. When the one guy gets kidnapped, you'll be surprised how he reacts to it, and what happens at the end of the film. It's based on a true story, and just in case you forget about that, pay close attention to the final 15 minutes of the movie. You'll be pretty shocked at what you're seeing.

    I recommend watching it. Bruce Willis' character didn't appear often, but just enough to get an idea who he was. He wasn't supposed to be one of the major characters, so it all makes sense....more info
  • Dark, unsettling and heartbreaking; much better than one would expect...
    `Alpha Dog' is a film I did not expect to have the impact in which it did. I expected it to be loud, entertaining and fun, but I never expected it to rip out my heart and depress me. I think maybe that's because I really didn't know that much about the `true events' this film is based on when I decided to rent this film this past weekend. My sister had seen it and loved it and said that I had to watch it but refused to tell me much of anything about it. If only I had read the review on this website then maybe I would have been prepared for what I was about to witness.

    `Alpha Dog' follows the kidnapping of young Zach Mazursky (all names have been changed) and chronicles his final days of life at the hands of notorious drug dealer Johnny Truelove. Zach's older half brother Jake owes Johnny money and with Jake's inability to pay promptly Johnny takes it upon himself to hold Zach as collateral. What at times seemed like a harmless prank turns quickly into something much more volatile. As Jake struggles to find Johnny and Zach resides with Johnny's friend Frankie time trickles away until there is no where to go but down, way down. Zach becomes close to his captors (all but Johnny himself who mostly stays away from his captive) and actually opts to remain in captivity even when given the opportunity to leave. He's having a good time, rebelling against his restrictive parents, and besides the fact, he loves his brother Jake and doesn't want to cause him any serious trouble. This was a very unwise move, as noble as it might have sounded at the time.

    The film, advertised more like a party film, has its fair share of teen debauchery that is sure to catch the eye of many rebellious teenagers today. It's filled to the brim with profanity, underage drinking and other forms of substance abuse, sexuality and nudity, but surprisingly none of this is overtly glamorized. By the time the film is through you realize that all of this, everything you think you want, is nothing more than a show to hide the pain and turmoil that is embodies. I watched the film with my younger brother who proceeded to tell me that he would die before living that kind of life, which was nice to hear since this is quite frankly the kind of life many youths today think they want to live. The parties, the booze, the girls...all of it may look appealing but thankfully this movie closely associates it with the horrific tragedy that is the murder of a young life yet to be really lived.

    The film has yet another surprise in store for the audience, and that is an impressive performance by pop-superstar Justin Timberlake. Buffed up and tattooed out, Timberlake embodies Frankie Ballenbacher with such charisma and natural charm. In actuality he is the only actor in the bunch that I think nailed his performance. Emile Hirsch tries to hard as Johnny Truelove and it shows. He looks like an actor trying to act. Timberlake looks effortless. There's a major difference. Anton Yelchin is a little boring for the most part of the film but towards the end he finds comfort-zone, which is good because the final scene between him and Timberlake is all the more heartbreaking with both actors on point. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone take a backseat to the youths in the cast, Ben Foster included who continues to prove he is a very talented actor.

    In the end `Alpha Dog' is not the film I expected to see, it is a much better film. It's flawed, sure, but it has a message and director Nick Cassavetes does a great job of delivering it. Cassavetes has claimed that he was attempting here to showcase how youths will act in ways they believe they are expected to act when pushed into a corner, thus murdering a young kid because they feel if they don't they may be looked at as scared, or even the mere fact that Zach rolled right along with his kidnapping instead of taking advantage of his many opportunities to escape, perhaps thinking that if he were to run then he would looked like less of a man. What Cassavetes has done here is create a very alarming character study of a certain subculture of youths today.

    After watching this film I was prompted to investigate the true events of drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood (of whom Johnny Truelove's character spawns) and I was impressed to see that the events surrounding this film are almost entirely accurate. Cassavetes did a great job of sticking to the facts, even with the inclusion of witnesses who saw the kidnapping take place. The film is much stronger than one would expect for it is much more than a teen drama, it is a horrific retelling of a tragedy that rests close to home and is sure to break your heart....more info
  • Give this one a shot...
    This isn't a great movie, but it is a pretty good movie--even if the acting is uneven and the plot meanders quite a bit. But it's certainly an interesting movie that's worth seeing. It probably even merits multiple viewings and I could see it becoming a cult film that's loved despite it's flaws, much like The Boondock Saints or pretty much every film directed by Robert Rodriguez. It's not that the plot is that similar, it's just that the film has a similar feel. There are moments here that really work if you ignore the ones that don't.

    As far as plot, this movie is based on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood, the youngest man to ever end up on the FBI's Most Wanted list. I don't think the director had any desire to make a message film--he was just attempting to tell the story of an interesting guy in a quirky, sometimes funny way. The movie is worth your time because the story is interesting--and odd. The main character, a small time criminal, kidnaps someone after a money dispute, yet the victim has such a good time partying with the gang that he never realizes the eminent danger of the situation. Throughout the movie you see Zach, the kidnap victim, enjoying his time in captivity as he goes to parties and meets girl, while his captor becomes more unstable.

    This movie has several recognizable actors in small roles such as Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Lucas Haas, Alex Kingston, and Harry Dean Stanton (along with other cast members from HBO shows like Ben Foster and Amanda Seyfried). Even the immortal Alan Thicke was brought in for about six seconds of screen time. The main character is played by Emile Hirsh, and he does an adequate job, although he seems a little uneven at times. Also uneven: Justin Timberlake, who seems to be doing a Jamie Kennedy style thug impersonation in parts of the film.

    In the end, if you like interesting stories and you aren't turned off by strong language and spotty acting, you'll probably find this film worth your time. The good parts outweigh the bad in my opinion....more info
  • Poignant
    This is a great movie as it points out a major flaw in today's society. How many people can witness a kidnapping and not do anything about it. It is sad that this is a true story, because it paints a clear picture of what happens when privileged white kids go unsupervised. Aint no way in hell a black parent would have let that kid in their house to spend the night if they didn't know the kid! From kidnappings to school shootings to casual murder...Wake Up Folks!...more info
  • Widescreen bargain but you'll have to squint a little!
    Has the present young generation grown up in a moral limbo? Has relativism seeped into everything? There seems to be a unstated credo in many (I won't indict all) teen circles; namely, cheating on tests is OK if everybody does it; leaving the scene of an accident is OK if you're busy; lying to authority is just fine if it makes one more comfortable --

    All of this kind of behavior is well in evidence in the recent underappreciated Nick Cassavetes' film ALPHA DOG, in which anomic "nice kids from the suburbs" wind up conspiring and/or contributing to murder and for no good reasons, not even selfish ones.

    If you can stand "M-F-ing" language as rank as Snoop Dogg on speed, ALPHA DOG is a really good movie filled with great performances by a huge cast including Sharon Stone, Harry Dean Stanton, Bruce Willis, Emile Hirsch and Justin Timberlake. People in their forties and fifties (us Boomers) are clearly shown as letting their kids run wild: in essence these elders-but-no-betters have fluffed their responsibilities in search of narcissistic horizons all their own.

    Result? Justin Timberlake plays the title character, a charismatic but witless charmer who excels at playing a good-times party boy. Lacking inner confidence in his own personality or judgment, and extremely inept in acknowledging the ways of the world, Timberlake's character puts on a "gangsta" attitude, incl. the raunchy language . . . Smiling, cajoling, joking, and provoking are his metier. Yet he isn't quite as clever as he thinks he is. Nonetheless he remains the standard-bearer of "Alpha Dog" in a milieu without standards.

    ALPHA DOG is based on a real case in Southern California that played out in the late Nineties and early part of this decade; this movie is fairly faithful to the real goings-on with liberty to fictionalize, telescope or rework: the classic "as based on" tale. True to life, the last several minutes of the film touch upon six or seven years of flights, trials, persecutions and imprisonment of so many young people portrayed in the movie.

    This is quite a good film IMO and Nick Cassavetes has the best of both worlds: in terms of repertory and acting he has some of the best actors around and lets them grow (Sharon Stone is especially effective as a luxury-loving mom who doesn't know bupkus about her children); on the other hand he draws from the examples of documentary experts like Frederic Wiseman and Nick Cassavetes' own father John. If you are offended by the kind of movie in which "there are no good people" -- well, avoid this one. There are a couple of "good people" in the plot but they don't get listened to, and that's the point.

    To me, ALPHA MALE draws a clear moral, not only about crime and punishment but, prior to that, about growing up absurd. I was reminded to some extent of Keanu Reeve's old breakout movie, RIVER'S EDGE, a social drama in which, essentially and in the absence of role models, kids have to mimic what they think is adult behavior. But I was not glad to find out that most of this sad saga's major "players" wound up in prison or worse. Justice was done, and I suppose had to be done, but I felt no sense of vindication. Just a sadness about wasted lives. Pardon me for sounding like an old you-know-what, but is the structure of our society visibly eroding?

    About my only gripe is that the film is in widescreen and, ironically, that director Nick Cassavetes uses it so well -- perhaps too well for us still using the old four by three CRT televisions. The movie was filmed in Cinemascope with a 2.5 - to - one aspect ratio. Fortunately, this anamorphic technique works well for Cassavetes as he peoples his drama and follows them through mean streets, semi-public parties, prestigious villas and private bedrooms gone backroom with their verbal and situational torture. Cheers to him and his cinematographer. UN-fortunately, one rhetorical technique he uses doesn't jibe with us mere NTSC watchers: each scene opens by displaying the names of the characters in it and how many of them become "eyewitnesses" to the goings-on. These intro-to-scene titles last about three to five seconds and they are faint on a CRT! Look for them at the very bottom-left of the picture.

    Nonetheless I do not recommend the fullscreen DVD, precisely because Nick Cassavetes works the stretchy canvas of anamorphic film so well. As of now (March 2008) the DVD of the widescreen is actually cheaper -- go for it, and IMHO you'll have gone for the better option. - a. s.
    ...more info
  • Not as bad as I thought...
    I watched this movie a lot later, when it was on demand, because it didnt seem like a movie that I would be interested in. The intrigue comes when you realize it was based on true events. You know that names have been changed, but not being from the area and knowing nothing about the case, I didnt know about the outcome. It starts out a little annoying I must say, just kids constantly getting high and cussing a lot. It then climaxes when the innocent brother of our drug dealers rival is kidnapped and then you cant help but watch to see what happens next. Once the drug dealer realizes what the sentence is for just kidnapping the kid and demanding ransom, things get really sticky.

    A movie worth seeing, and Justin Timberlake gave a surprisingly good performance. Just make sure you dont cut out before the end. :) ...more info


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