Alpha Dog Review
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Based on the true-crime story of Jesse James Hollywood, who’s currently awaiting trial (and, most likely, complaining to his lawyers, who were unable to prevent this film from being released before the jury decides his future), Alpha Dog tells the story of payback gone too far.

At the age of 20, Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) is already a big-time drug dealer. One of the guys, however, isn’t pulling his weight. Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) owes Johnny money—and, to make matters worse, he messed up one of Johnny’s big deals. And, before long, the relatively small debt turns into a bitter rivalry.

One morning, Johnny and some of his friends stumble onto what they see as the perfect opportunity when they find Jake’s 15-year-old brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin), walking down the street. They drag him into their van—but once they have him, they aren’t sure what to do with him.

For the next two days, Zack spends most of his time with Johnny’s friend Frankie (Justin Timberlake), in what seems to be a non-stop party. He stays at Frankie’s house, he meets people (who know him as The Stolen Boy), and he wanders around freely, actually enjoying himself. When Frankie offers to send him home, Zack even chooses to stay until everything blows over between Jake and Johnny.

Meanwhile, however, Johnny finds out that there’s a life sentence for kidnapping—and his little prank could get him into serious trouble.

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good crime story. Throw in a little controversy, and it’s just that much more fascinating. So I was intrigued by Alpha Dog’s premise—and by all the stories and accusations and lawsuits swarming around it. But even the interesting story and the raging controversy couldn’t turn it into a good movie. Most of the film focuses on the parties—the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. The rest of the film is like something made for Court TV—a lot of dates and times and places and witnesses, plenty of melodrama, and a few interviews with the people involved (the strangest coming from a brilliantly fat-suited yet completely unhinged Sharon Stone, who plays Zack’s mother)—though it’s not nearly as interesting. Most of it revolves around a bunch of slacker California kids hanging out and partying, and that makes for a long and dull movie. As I watched a girl at one of the parties down an entire bottle of some random beverage, I couldn’t help but think, If they’d cut that part, I could have gotten out of here two whole minutes sooner.

The biggest surprise was Justin Timberlake, whose performance, my fellow film critics agreed, was probably the best thing about the movie. Of course, that’s not to say that there’s an Oscar in the pop star’s future, but he actually does surprisingly well. Unfortunately, though, JT couldn’t save the movie—and the bad writing and saggy plot left me wishing I could change the channel. So if you’re looking for an interesting crime story, stay home and watch a few Law & Order reruns instead.

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