Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, graphic violence, drug use, and graphic language.
Genre: Crime Drama Thriller
Directed By: Nick Cassevetes
Running Time: 1:57
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 8/10/07
Special Features:
Making Of

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Much like films such as “Havoc,” and “Dreamland,” the teen thriller “Alpha Dog” is about as realistic a representation of the modern teen as Hollywood would like you to believe. The only saving grace is the fact that it’s based on a true story, which helped fuel my strong interest, along with the lovely Amanda Seyfried starring. “Alpha Dog” is a display of the best of the best young talents that Hollywood has to offer with an ensemble hearkening back to the likes of “The Outsiders” on many occasions. People like Ben Foster to Emile Hirsch pull in very good performances, with even Justin Timberlake pulling in a stand out as Frankie, a friend of Johnny Truelove’s who is given the duty of watching young Zack, and inevitably gains a sense of fondness for him. Timberlake is unlike anything I’ve ever seen here, and he’s both sympathetic and utterly memorable as a character that begins as a mere supporting player and ends up a key figure in the progression of crime drama.

 Thankfully Cassevetes and co. never overplay their potential bond, and display what is tightly explored as male bonding that progresses into a compelling companionship. Anton Yelchin is very good as the young man who finds himself in the middle of the war waged between Johnny Truelove and Jake Mazursky. He’s kidnapped by Truelove and his group who proceed to hold him against his will. Zack finds himself immersed in a whole new world set apart from his upper crest lifestyle, and takes to it with a great zeal.  

The truly good performances though come from Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch who are just power houses as former friends and confidants who battle over debts, and inevitably go to war with each other that results in inevitable bloodshed. Foster proves once again that he’s a truly underrated talent, as he just chews the screen as Jake Mazursky the constantly stoned psychotic gangster who seeks blood after his brother Zack is kidnapped, while Hirsch extinguishes his former image for a more sadistic performance as Johnny Truelove, a gangster willing to do anything to prove his weight as a gang member and keep up with his dad and uncle played well by Bruce Willis and Harry Dean Stanton. “Alpha Dog” won’t win awards, but at the end of the day it garners some rather fantastic performances that send this home, and I almost loved it.

One of the real caveats of “Alpha Dog” is the constantly sickening performance of Sharon Stone who is consistently over the top and weighs much of the story’s pace down with her tendency to chew the scenery on many occasions. When she’s not in the background, she seems to almost place too much emphasis on a mere supporting performance, and makes a laughable impression. In one truly paramount moment, she’s interviewed in a horrid fat suit that is inadvertently one of the funniest sequences in the past few years. Stone just hits sour note after sour note here, and it’s a shame she’s the flaw in a series of seamless performances.

Cassavetes' film is pure Hollywood fiction and sensationalism mixed with some sense of reality, but hell I enjoyed it a great deal. "Alpha Dog" mostly lives up to the hype with great performances all around, a tight cast, and a gritty story that works.



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