Alpha Dog (2006) Review : An excellent movie about misguided youth

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Alpha Dog (2006) Movie Review

Alpha Dog

This is a story about spoiled, misguided teenagers who do nothing but smoke pot, drink and party. Understandably, all of the teenager characters act in accordance with this care-free life style. So, you should expect this sort of behavior from them (a lot of cursing, violence, sex, drug usage, etc.). I think the director did a terrific job of portraying the setting for this type of life style.

There are two rival parties of youngsters and one guy, Jake Mazursky, owes some money to another guy, Johnny Truelove. Jake is a typical unruly teenager but his younger brother Zack is a nice kid who seems to have a brighter future than his older brother. But when Jake refuses to pay off his debt to Johnny Truelove, they kidnap his younger brother Zack as a hostage. Surprisingly, Zack develops a nice rapport with his kidnappers; being a nice kid, he easily connects even with the unruly kind. He doesn't even seem to be willing to escape from his kidnappers.

This is an excellent film showing the extend of damage that can be caused by the misguided youngsters. They live in a world where even the most stupid acts can be accepted as being "cool" or "desirable". Too much pot smoking and drugs, not enough oxygen in the brain cells. Are these kids really that stupid or are they stupefied by all the drugs they take? I think this is a movie all parents should watch and they should watch it really carefully before things are too late.

Having learned about the "Jesse James Hollywood" case during my junior year in high school, I'll admit that I was actually extremely disappointed to find out that a film was being made depicting the events that had happened. However, I can now say, I think differently.

The basic premise, without giving too much away, involves a drug deal gone awry. Someone isn't paying Johnny Truelove, and that someone, just so happens to have a little brother. A naive, fifteen year old, little brother (played powerfully by Anton Yelchin) who just wants to live his life. The boy is kidnapped, and held as a sort of ransom, until Jonny gets his money from boy's brother. Johnny's friends become attached to the boy, and eventually, the boy learns a life lesson.

Alpha Dog

It may all sound played out and done before, but this film is electrifying in every sense of the word. It's hardcore. It's raw. It's at times gritty. (I felt some vibes from the Larry Clark film "Bully", with the whole "kids-doing-what-they-want-anytime-anywhere thing"). You feel as though you're watching these people's lives just crumble before them, making it all the more worse is the grim reality that's stuck in the back of your mind, reminding you that this is all true. Nick Cassavetes has created such a true-to-life depiction of what happened, that it's almost frightening. You won't want to look away.

There are a few downsides however, one being the running time, either the movie was too dragged out or was just moving too slow. To me, I felt as though it could have ended fifteen minutes earlier. There's also a lot of partying, however, this being a depiction of a real life set of teenagers' lives, I can see why it was so vital towards the film. These kids have parents who do as much as they do. The parents don't care what happens to these kids, which makes it all the more terrifying. These kids are on their own. They have nowhere to run and no one to turn to for help.

With an all-star cast, and top performances all around (not a fan of Justin Timberlake? You will be after this film. Trust me) this film is one not to be missed. The ending is so shocking, that it's a wonder I didn't expect it early on. 'Alpha Dog' is an emotional roller coaster that will have you glued to the screen right from the emotional opening credits.

Alpha Dog starts off as what seems like a movie all about a group of friends who life their idea of the American dream: doing drugs, having sex, and hanging out with each other not a care in the world. However, when their leader, Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), decides to kidnap the brother (Anton Yelchin) of a man (Ben Foster) who owes him drug money, their perfect world begins to shatter as they realize that their mindless prank has become a situation that could get them stuck in jail for the rest of their lives.

The acting is pretty good considering the cast is mostly young men with little to no experience. First, you have Anton Yelchin, whom the plot centers around. He is the young man trying to grow up, and finds a real sense of comfort in his captors, as weird as it sounds. He does a great job building a likable, yet flawed character. The film definitely displays likable characters, but the audience has to remember that these characters are not good people. Ben Foster has always been around in my eyes, and he delivers his most intense role yet as the scary and sadistic Jake Mazursky. Very good job. Emile Hirsch is steadily developing into a good leading man after nice turns in Lords of Dogtown and The Girl Next Door. He's the leader of the group, and he has a certain presence despite his small size that reminds the viewer who's in command. Sharon Stone continues to defy my expectations of her after watching her in Bobby and this film. Very intense and powerful performance, which is very heartfelt at the end of the film. However, none of these performances stack up close to that of GASP Justin Timberlake. Timberlake really stood out to me in the film as Frankie, Johnny's best friend. He develops a strong friendship with Yelchin's character, and Timberlake really steals the show the whole time. His character is the most believable and likable of the bunch. Bruce Willis and Shawn Hatosy are also good in limited screen time (I don't think I've seen Willis have this much hair in a long time).

Nick Cassavetes does a good job as director, giving us the exact opposite of his most famous work to date, The Notebook. He delivers the gritty and realistic feel of 1999 Southern California and gets great performances out of actors who you don't really expect it from. The film definitely was better than I expected because of Justin Timberlake. I thought he would make the film worse but he made it better. It has some sex scenes and nudity, not to mention a lot of language, so Alpha Dog isn't really appropriate for anyone under 16 or 17. With a good ensemble cast, a good script, good direction, and a heart wrenching climax, Alpha Dog is a good movie to watch.

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