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March 8, 2021
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Alpha Dog
(2007-03-19)
(wgvu) - Alpha Dog is the latest film by Nick Cassavetes, is a flawed but dynamic fictionalized account of a real life crime. Set in the late 90s in Southern California, it details the decadent lifestyles of affluent teenagers swept up in a constant orgy of drugs, alcohol and sex. At the center of the movie is drug dealer Johnny Truelove, who is played by Emile Hirsh. Truelove's supplier is his own father, who is played by Bruce Willis, and he's egged on by his drunken grandpa, who is played by Harry Dean Stanton, who apparently is still alive. Truelove is surrounded by a posse of macho young men, and their eager young women. They spend their time drinking, doing bong hits, and playing endless video games or watching rap videos on their big screen TVs. Justin Timberlake is the joker of the group, Frankie, who lives in splendor at his father's house. Dad grows pot, offers his son participation in his orgies, and lets his son host lavish pool parties for minors. After Truelove has a falling out with one of his more psychotic customers, Jake Mazursky, the dealer goes after him with his entourage. But instead of finding Jake, they run across his 15 year old brother, Zack, a na ve, somewhat innocent kid, played by Anton Yelchin. At first they threaten Zack, but soon his captivity becomes an extended party. Frankie is put in charge of Zack, and he takes him, at first, and then puts him up at a hotel. He also surrounds him with a new group of teenagers. (clip) Sharon Stone plays Zack's mother, and Ben Foster plays brother Jake, the speed freak junkie. (clip)
Stone does a nice turn in her small role, as do veterans Stanton and Willis. And most of the other, younger, actors are also stellar in their performances. Foster has been criticized for his overly amped drama, but I found his antics to be compelling, and riveting. His character's the only, real frightening psycho ---the others are only pretending to be gangsters until they stumble into violence. Justin Timberlake is the big surprise in Alpha Dog. I can't stand the guy's overly produced, pre-packaged music, but he shows himself to be an understated, wholly believable actor. Director Cassavetes uses split screens, weird textures, and distorted colors in different scenes, to relay the emotional terrain of the participants. The movie goes too long, and the mock interviews are unnecessary (although one allows Stone to get her ham on). But even with its flaws, Alpha Dog is a good, gritty drama.

Alpha Dog become infamous for a lawsuit that was filed against the real life prosecutor who gave the producers access to his files on the genuine Johnny Truelove, Jesse James Hollywood, whose story has been featured on TV shows like Dateline, America's Most Wanted, and Unsolved Mysteries.
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