3.8 out of 5 stars
"Alpha Dog" is a gritty urban crime drama about drug-fueled teenagers. This morality tale puts together a sort of docu-style approach about a kidnapping and murder based on a crime incident in Southern, California. As a flashy retelling of a real-life tragedy without mainly laying out the facts, but utilizing the creative license to come up with a fictional story, it shows the tapestry of the unhappily affluent youth having a bite of their psychologically violent tendencies.
"Alpha Dog" offers a pointed critique of a youth culture at their worst times. A story about bad decisions and ultimate partying, it depicts a standard tabloid issue turned into a true-crime movie fare. It presents California's lowlife, money-stricken homes, and the youth's exposure to illegal drugs, casual sex, and offensive language.
In the story, drugged-out and overly tattooed characters party most of the time. This movie poses the usual issues on parents’ responsibilities to their children -- where guidance and discipline becomes major concerns. It justifies varying ideas such as how an overprotected person can have a hard time realizing that he or she is already playing with too much fire. From there, he or she realizes things only to find out that the world is already crumbling before him or her. Indeed, in a family, the thin line between freedom and protection becomes issues to contend with.
"Alpha Dog" plays around a crime that still comes out so possible, amidst the fact that there have been too many witnesses who could have stopped it. The murder scene is very effective that it builds good tension with its ironic but very much validating acting and dialogues. The scene holds the viewer’s interest, while carrying the emotional weight needed for the audience.
“Alpha Dog" features a number of both effective and ineffective performances. Yet overall, the ensemble delivers fine. Sharon Stone's striking monologue near the end of the film is a revelation. It has a very sincere interpretation of a mother losing a child. However, her being buried inside a fat suit becomes a bit bothering as it looks quite fake. Ben Foster effectively gets into his role as the disturbed Jake Mazursky. With those dilated eyes and menacing and self-loathing appeal, he really pulls off his performance as a drug addict.
Justin Timberlake generally delivers as Johnny Truelove’s right hand man Frankie Ballenbacher. With his acting and physicality, Emile Hirsch renders a good performance for his Johnny Truelove role, but he seems to lack something to really pull off something great. Anton Yelchin as Zack Mazursky, the naive, 15-year old brother of Jake who wants to get out of his contrived life within his affluent sphere, becomes such a sympathetic character. He delivers his best lines during the murder scene. Bruce Willis as Sonny Truelove does his part in his more verbal role as Johnny's father.
"Alpha Dog" has some good scenes set within its couple of missed opportunities. There are striking moments in between some frivolous and shallow affairs.
Overall, director Nick Cassavetes manages to chill the film on occasion, but still, he doesn’t get to completely master the tone, style, editing, and directing of this story about jaded teenagers and their drug deal gone awry.
Shortlist of Las Vegas stores where you can buy Blu-rays/DVDs:
B & R VIDEO CENTER
1437 N. Jones Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89108
3680 S. Maryland Pkwy. Las Vegas, NV 89169
6820 W. Flamingo Rd. Ste. C Las Vegas, NV 89103
3820 W. Lake Mead Blvd. North Las Vegas, NV 89032
5785 W. Tropicana Ave. Ste. 1 Las Vegas, NV 89103