Thursday, May 31, 2007


Kids slay the darndest things

By Edward Copeland
Nick Cassavetes deserves a lot of credit as a writer and director for making Alpha Dog seem as fresh as it does, when this account of a true incident involving young, would-be gangsters in California, can't avoid reminding a viewer of countless other explorations into the seedy world of young people out of control. Dating back (at least) to 1979's Over the Edge through 1986's River's Edge and 2003's Better Luck Tomorrow, the territory Alpha Dog covers seems awfully familiar. It's almost like a Larry Clark film, minus the creepy pseudo-pedophilia aspect.

Alpha Dog tells the true story of a spur of the moment kidnapping that goes terribly wrong. Emile Hirsch plays Johnny Truelove, a small-time drug dealer with aspirations of bigger things, no doubt inspired by his connected father (Bruce Willis). When another tough guy Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) comes up short on cash because of a deal that went sour, Johnny and his friends grab Jake's younger half-brother Zach (Anton Yelchin). Only thing is, they grow to like Zach and Zach doesn't mind being steered away from home for awhile, even if by force.

He begins to enjoy the camaraderie, partying and sexual exploration. He especially forms a bond with Johnny's friend Frankie (Justin Timberlake, in a surprisingly effective performance). Unfortunately, because of a vague phone call to one of his father's attorney friends, Johnny begins to fear that he faces prison time for the abduction, even if Zach is willing to say he left on his own.

You can see the inevitability of where this is heading, but it's sad nonetheless, especially when it appears the one person truly most responsible for the madness is the only one who will get off scot-free. The performers all do fairly well. In fact, the young actors come off better than the more seasoned adults in their glorified cameos such as the aforementioned Willis and Sharon Stone as Zach's mother. Stone further has to shoot some scenes under some of the worst fat makeup I've ever seen.

Those scenes present some of the biggest problems with Alpha Dog: It opens and frequently reverts as if it's a documentary telling of the tale, but the switching to scenes depicting action that really no witnesses could have testified to, makes the film have a schizophrenic feeling.

Still, despite that flaw and the sense that we've seen this all before, most of Alpha Dog still works. It's no River's Edge or even Over the Edge, but it certainly could have been worse.

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now the real question, is does Justin Timberlake deserve the best newcomber award at the MTV movie awards next week.
I don't know who his competition is, but he is good.
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