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Alpha Dog

2007-08-03 17:06
What it’s about:

Based on the life of drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood, who became one of the youngest men ever to be on the FBI's most wanted list, Alpha Dog is about a group of kids living the gansta life in Southern California. They are dealing in drugs and partying hard, just like in the movies. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) is the ringleader who commands respect by using physical force. His posse Frankie Ballenbacher (Justin Timberlake), Elvis Schmidt (Shawn Hatosy) and Tiko 'TKO' Martinez (Fernando Vargas) are always at his beck and call. When drug addict Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) owes him money, Truelove kidnaps Jake’s younger brother Zack (Anton Yelchin).

What we thought of it:

If Alpha Dog was a reality TV show, then the audience would be the fly on the wall of suburban home during an episode titled “Teens behaving badly”. More than anything, this movie is about bad parenting. Where were the parents when these kids were playing violent games, drinking, taking (and dealing) drugs, engaging in underage sex and committing murder? This movie is a wake up call to everybody, kids and parents.

Besides the message it conveys, Alpha Dog is also well executed. Director Nick Cassavetes skilfully uses gritty TV-style interviews with the parents, intercut with the sequence of events that lead to the kidnapping. The clips establish character and drive home the message that the parents played a major role in the tragedy that inspired the movie.

Cassavetes has also recruited a cast of talented youngsters who do an impressive job with the script. Justin Timberlake is particularly well suited for the role of Truelove’s sidekick, Frankie. It seems there is a lot of Timberlake in Frankie. They have a similar walk, expression and general persona.

Maybe that’s why his first major role seems so effortless; after all, Timberlake often tries to emulate the hip hop demeanour in real life, as his character does in this movie. At first Frankie is just a young guy trying to be cool, but towards the end of the film draws empathy from the audience as he shows his sensitive side.

The same can’t be said for Bruce Willis. He dies hard in the opening scene when he appears as Truelove’s criminal dad, in full make-up consisting of age spots and weird hair implants. Willis not only looks ridiculous, his acting is less than average. Maybe he needs bullets coming at him to act reasonably well.

Sharon Stone, on the other hand, is hardly recognisable as the mother of the kidnap victim Zack Mazursky. Stone, who is often cast as a sex siren, is completely different in this role, being an overbearing and emotional mother. It’s a stretch for her and at times she seems to be overdoing it.

Even with a talented support cast, overacting seems to be a problem for many of the young actors. In one instance a supporting actress screams inaudible dialogue at the top of her lungs, when she learns that the kid they’ve been partying with is actually a kidnap victim. It’s unclear why Cassavetes would encourage this, but maybe it’s to emphasise how far out this story is. Instead it detracts from a true story that is unbelievable in itself.

The movie is not all about drama. There are some comic moments to cushion the frantic tragedy that unfolds later in the movie. There are also many warm moments, making Alpha Dog a must-see movie. Not since American History X (1998) and Mean Creek (2004) has a movie tried to tackle teen violence, and actually succeed. Granted they are very different movies, but they show a scary side of American teens.

In addition to the social commentary about the absent parents, this movie raises many questions about the root of violence. Writer/director Cassavetes gives the view a few options, but never really provides an answer. No doubt he expects us to draw our own conclusions.

- Nomfundo H Mbaba+Tshabalala
Alpha Dogs may be shot like a music video, but it's really a wakeup call for parents.

audilia couto 2007/06/08 9:32 AM
alfa dog Boy oh boy, it took a bit to get started but once it got started, it was good. I really enjoyed especially timberlake. So sad the ending.
Nalisha 2007/06/08 9:54 AM
Alpha Dog It was an excellent movie reiterating that we must act and behave like parents when we enter parenthood. Their lives were a tragedy as they respected nobody due to no upbringing. We must be here for our kids
Walied 2007/06/08 9:55 AM
Bad Thanks for affording me the opportunity to see the movie. The movie was a reminder of everyday happenings amongst our youth, however the quality was not good at all. It was like they were busy rehearsing.
Jaco 2007/06/08 9:56 AM
MR Movie was funny at stages but I will not recommend this movie to anyone. Drawn out and stupid.
KM Hoosain 2007/06/08 9:56 AM
Alpha Dog I thot that the movie was too slow and I suppose I made my mind up then. Didnt enjoy it, altho sec half was better.
Peter 2007/06/08 9:57 AM
Don't stop, play! Very good film. Good acting, well directed, excellent story. Made me want to go back 10 years and take another hit from the bong :-) Intense film which makes for difficult viewing at times. News24. Give me another free ticket, pleeeeeeeessse!
Penny Mills 2007/06/08 9:58 AM
Alpha Dog Initially I was horrified by the language & behaviour of the main caracters, but as the movies progressed it was an intergral part of getting into the pshyce of the kids, to let you know just how off the rails they were, and as it progressed, it was a very deep, violent, thought provoking movie, with a lot of shock appeal. JT is not a bad actor either, not a "nice" movie, but good. I enjoyed it, but not for the prudish or easily offended!
Gunther Swaty 2007/06/08 9:58 AM
Alpha dog...the good and the Bad went to go and watch the Primiere last night... half way through the movie we contemplated leaving... it is a good storie but it was a little desturbing and felt like it was dragging. lucky enough we kept our bums firmly seated to the end and it turned out erm...disturbing the movie is very harsh and yet true to the whole gangster/drug dealer life style and turns to show what that kind of lifestyle can get you into. its hard to rate this movie because through the movie i felt like leaving and yet at the end it was worth staying.
Rene 2007/06/08 10:00 AM
Alpha Dog I saw the screening last and was very pleasently surprised. Justin is a surprisingly good actor for the sceptics (myself included). The movie was very good border excellent. The language (for the prudes) only increased the seriousness and reality of the actual movie. The movie is a very real and scary reflection on out society today. Rich bored kids with far too much freedom and no boundaries. Def worth seeing!!!
Walied 2007/06/08 10:00 AM
Alpha Dog Correction to title wrt my comments
Brett 2007/06/08 10:01 AM
twist Without knowing that what the movie was about or what it was based on, it seemed to pretty good movie about kids having a good timeand having a drug lord , who turns there lives upside down , as a friend. Well that is until the last ten minutes when everthing becomes very disturbing. It makes me enforce the belief any one is capable of anything especialy to get back at you.
Rod Ehmke 2007/06/08 10:02 AM
Alpha Dog it is not everyday that I am so disgusted in a movie that I actually walk out before the ending. But for this one its true. The plot may very well be based on actuall happenings in our society, but to sit there listening to this one was a complete waste of time. I am surprised that an quality actor like Bruce Willis would actually play in something like this.
NEERAJ KRISHNA 2007/06/08 10:02 AM
ALPHA DOG I just think this was one good movie. me been a 23 year guy i will recommend this movie to any other youngster that really enjoys the street life. To me, i will rate it 4 outa 5.
Hendriena Willers 2007/06/08 10:02 AM
Alfa Dog Well, I was shocked. The scary part is this took place in the year +- 2000 and I can only imagine what is happening in today's lifestyle. It opened my eyes as far as parenting goes, but also look at the parents the example they set for the kids are frightning.
Alison 2007/06/08 10:03 AM
Alpha Dog Shocking and unbelievable the depths of depravity teenagers still supposedly in their parents care have been allowed to descend into. Well acted and very touching and extremely funny in parts, but disturbing overall.
Az 2007/06/08 10:04 AM
Alpha Dog My first impression was where they going with this. Is this going to be one of those typical young rebelious children movies that reflect how children misbehave as soon as the parents get away. But at the end it stimulated the brain because although seeming far fetched at times, the drug scene is very prevalent. The rebelious attitude of teens is real and the over working parents who rarely have time for their children is a real social concern. Back to the movie, I love entertainment and this movie offered entertainment as well as a thought process(a brain stimulant if you like) so i recommend it but not for sensitive viewers that's for sure. I rate it 8 out of 10.
Valen Govender 2007/06/08 10:04 AM
Alpha Dog Eye opening in terms of the exploits of teenagers and the trappings of peer pressure. However I felt that the plot was one more suited to to a short story.
Amith Authar 2007/06/08 10:04 AM
amazing movie I loved the movie, had no idea what to expect but was pleasently surprised. True stroy movies never seem to be directed well but alpha dog was depicted beautifully.
Adele de Wet 2007/06/08 10:04 AM
alpha dog The movie was shocking for me ... maybe because i realised that it is happening around me ... maybe i'm in denial. I have 2 young sons, i will do my utmost to protect them from that life. The movie was violent, strong, an eye-opener for me. I felt disturbed after i watched it. I enjoyed it, purely because of the reality-factor.
velly 2007/06/08 10:06 AM
Velisto very realistic. if teenagers themselves would watch this movie and maybe they'll realise the other side of their so-called "cool" or "fun". I enjoyed the movie though.
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