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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Alpha Dog

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Judy Thorburn

"Alpha Dog" - Deserves To Be Put Down

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"ALPHA DOG" DESERVES TO BE PUT DOWN

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

As the son of late actor/filmmaker John Cassavetes, and veteran actress Gena Rowlands you could say making movies is in Nick Cassavetes’ blood. I loved his directorial work on the 2004 film adaptation of the best selling novel, The Notebook, where he did an awesome job delivering a beautiful, heartfelt love story. Now, almost three years later Cassavetes goes to the opposite extreme, by getting down and dirty, (and that’s putting it mildly) with his dark and disturbing film, Alpha Dog, which he wrote and directed. I can only hope that his film, in which pop superstar Justin Timberlake makes a very impressionable big screen acting debut, works as a cautionary tale for young audiences to ponder. Cassavetes based his screenplay on events surrounding Jesse James Hollywood, who, as a fugitive from justice, was one of the youngest men to be placed on the FBI’s most wanted list.

In this fictionalized version of the true story, Hollywood is named Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), the leader of a pack of mostly white, affluent young kids that include best friend, heavily tattooed Frankie (Justin Timberlake) and loyal follower, but incessantly teased Elvis (Shawn Hotasy) who have nothing better to do than hang out in one of their well to do surroundings, smoke pot, party with their slutty girlfriends and emulate the negative gangsta lifestyle of rappers they spend time watching on MTV videos.

Johnny is a drug-dealing thug anxious to get the $1200 in drug money that is owed him by Jake Muzursky (Ben Foster) an explosive ex con on parole who barely communicates with his father Butch (David Thornton) and more than patient stepmother Olivia (Sharon Stone). On the other hand, fifteen-year-old younger half brother Zack (Anton Yelchin), tired of following the rules and regulations of his protective parents, admires his brother’s lifestyle and sneaks out of the house to get away. When Jake can’t come up with the money to pay Johnny, he goes on a rampage, breaking into and vandalizing Johnny’s house, but not leaving before dropping his pants and depositing a ‘load’ on the rug. Johnny is furious and reacts by sending his boys after Jake. They encounter Zack on their route and upon taking him into their van decide to hold him as ransom in exchange for his brother’s debt. But instead of realizing what is happening, Zack is thrilled with the attention, partying, girls and drugs and is totally clueless of where all this is leading. Under the watchful eye of Frankie who has taken him to his house in Palm Springs, days go by without Zack even thinking to call his parents to tell them of his whereabouts. By now, Zack has lost his virginity in a swimming pool tryst with two young girls and having a grand old time under the belief that he has been accepted into a new group of friends. Back home, Zack’s Mom, Olivia becomes frantic. It’s been days that her son is missing and she goes to the police for help in what now has been realized as a kidnapping.

I won’t say any more about the plotline other than the story has a tragic ending. What I will add is the reasons why I was so put off by the movie. Most of the young characters are simply despicable. Not only do they have foul mouths, in acting as gangsta posers they refuse to accept the responsibility for their reprehensible actions. All the young girlfriends come off as sluts and only one female friend portrayed by Dominique Swain, after figuring out her friends are up to no good, acts as the voice of reason, but is dismissed. On the plus side, I can’t complain about the strong performances by the entire ensemble cast (which isn’t enough for me to recommend this film) that includes Bruce Willis as Truelove’s Dad and Sharon Stone in an emotionally heart wrenching scene that proves she can act. However, I would like to know why, halfway through the film, Ben Foster’s wild and fierce character Jake falls from the wayside and out of the picture.

What I found disconcerting at the screening I attended were the reactions from a portion of the audience who seemed to revel in the violence. At one point, a young man sitting a few rows behind me yelled out “she’s psycho” when Stone’s character was showing emotional pain and anguish in the aftermath of what occurred. If this kind of audience behavior represents the attitude of today’s young generation then it is a sad commentary on the state of affairs.

On the other hand, if it does send a message as a cautionary tale to some youths and their parents, it would have some redeeming value. As it stands, from the looks of it, Apha Dog is an ugly breed with an awful bite that is hard to shake off. Therefore, I have no problem putting it down.