Alpha Dog (2006) Review

Alpha Dog (2006) Review 1
| Nov 12, 2007

I’ve never been a Justin Timberlake fan. I’ve always thought that he was incredibly lame and that his musical career was a finely-tuned ventriloquist act mimicking more talented and original artists. I can happily say that I’ve never bought either of his albums nor have I ever downloaded one of his songs. Same goes for his old outfit *NSYNC. And you know, say what you want about the Backstreet Boys, but at least they all went down together. How do you really feel about J.T.’s success if you’re Joey Fatone or Chris Kirkpatrick?

Now Timberlake’s spreading his wings and getting into acting. I was not impressed because I’ve always felt that it’s bad enough to suck at one thing let alone foisting your talentless self into other disciplines. When J.T.’s first film Edison Force died in a direct-to-video release last year, I hadn’t laughed that hard since he was booed and had stuff thrown at him at SARS-stock. So now having seen Timberlake act, I have to say that he’s actually not bad. He’s no Donnie Wahlberg, but he’s no Lance Bass either. Although if I were him, I’d stop bragging about not having to audition; some actors who are actually trying to earn a living might take that as an offence.

Alpha Dog is based on the true life story of Jesse James Hollywood, the youngest man to ever to make the FBI top ten list. Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the story remains the same. In 1999, young “Johnny Truelove” (Emile Hirsch) runs a small time drug dealing outfit. With cutthroat, quick-trigger release, Johnny and friends kidnap Zack (Anton Yelchin), the younger brother of a stoner that owes them money. What our friend Johnny doesn’t realize is that kidnapping is federal crime that will get you life if caught, so he scrambles for a way out which eventually leads him to press his minions into killing Zack so that he can’t talk to the police.

This is one of those movies where there’s hardly a redeemable quality about anyone involved. In fact, the only two people that don’t get what they deserve are the poor kid that gets killed, and his mom (a great, smaller performance by Sharon Stone, incidentally). Writer/director Nick Cassavetes really doesn’t try to explain what drives Johnny at all, except for maybe some vague insinuations that the gangsta rap culture glorified drugs and violence in the eyes of these privileged brats. The problem is that Cassavetes also wallows in these stereotypes, rather than demonstrate how this way of life was corrosive to the moral fibre of these characters, where many of them can get to the point where they can kill an innocent kid almost absentmindedly.

Basically it comes down to character and how most of the people here lack any. Getting high is their only preoccupation; little things like getting a job or getting an education don’t even dwell anywhere near the radar. But if ambition is in short supply, then conscience is nearly non-existent; the moral compass of these kids is seriously off-set, with many reacting to Zack’s status as a kidnappee like it was a neat new tattoo he got. Even the adults are void. One girl tries to alert her Mom that her friends have a kidnapped boy in their home but she gets chastised for interrupting her parents’ anniversary sex.

I know that Cassavetes was working from a true story and thus a lot of the elements were outside his control, but if this is even a semi-truthful snapshot of these people, then thank God most of them are currently in prison. Jesse James Hollywood tried to have the release of this movie stopped on the grounds that it could taint the jury pool, and he was right to think so. I can’t imagine a single person seeing this movie and protesting or writing songs demanding his freedom. And the movie’s not that great either.

Final Thoughts

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Alpha Dog (2006) Review
Nick Cassavetes
Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin
Running Time:
122 min