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"Alpha Dog"

Directed by Nick Cassavetes.
Written by Nick Cassavetes.
Starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin and Bruce Willis.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  1/14/07


Okay, this much I know is fact:  1) "Alpha Dog" premiered literally a year ago at Sundance.  2)  I saw the first trailer for this film at some point last spring, before summer movie season got underway.  3) I am pretty sure that the domestic release date was moved back at least twice before this flick was finally pushed into 2007.

Knowing all of this, and that the cast is so random that fucking Alan Thicke shows up near the end of this film as some guy's father and has no lines, I was sure that "Alpha Dog" was going to suck and sadly, I was mostly right on this.  Based on true events, the film follows posse leader Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) and his band of lackeys in the fall of 1999; Johnny moves a lot of weed in his spare time, so with the help of his teammates, like Frankie (Justin Timberlake), TKO (Fernando Vargas) and Elvis (Shawn Hatosy), he moves around southern California with the ease of a guy that has carte blanche access to everything...of course, it always helps when your father (Bruce Willis) is there to help, so Johnny and his dad have a good thing going.  When Jake (Ben Morgan), a coked-out former associate who owes Johnny money, comes calling to say that he doesn't have all of Johnny's cash yet, Johnny gets pissed off and to retaliate, he kidnaps Jake's younger brother Zach (Anton Yelchin).  Over the course of three days, Johnny and his crew keep Zach as a hostage...a hostage that ends up living the good life while hangin' with Johnny's crew.

Featuring non-stop profanity and drug use, "Alpha Dog" is loud but doesn't really pack much of a bite.  The performances here are all full-tilt boogie; the "simmer" button seems to be broken here, as writer/director Nick Cassavetes has all of his performers go through every scene with an intensity that doesn't really seem necessary, even if that's how the real-life personas of these characters truly are.  This is even funnier whenever Sharon Stone, as Zach's mother, is on-screen; a couple of times, even I couldn't figure out where all of the emotions had come from.  All of the females in "Alpha Dog" are that way; maybe I missed the memo coming in that all of the women in this movie--even the ones that aren't hopped up on any drugs--should look like crashing speed freaks!  Timberlake is pretty good in "Alpha Dog" (of course, he IS Justin Timberlake) and I liked Yelchin as the "stolen boy" that the action centers around...but otherwise, the performances don't register.

It's hard to analyze what is wrong with "Alpha Dog" because so much of it just doesn't feel right.  Since this is based in reality, there is something intriguing about a teenage hostage who doesn't really want to go home because he's hangin' out with hot women in expensive homes with piles of drugs available at a nod of the head...but the execution here is weak.  I can see why they put this puppy on the shelf for so long!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09