‘Alpha Dog’ movie review: a real-life thriller with bite

Two-thirds of a fascinating film, a vivid and compelling look at suburban youth culture powered by an overwhelming sense of dread; unfortunately, director Nick Cassavetes lets everything completely derail by the end.

Film tells the true story of Jesse James Hollywood (here called Johnny Truelove due to real-life litigations), small time drug dealer who kidnaps and eventually orders the murder of young Nicholas Markowitz (here Zack Mazursky).

Young cast is excellent all-around: particularly effective are Anton Yelchin as the unknowing victim, Ben Foster as his strung-out brother, and, surprisingly, Justin Timberlake, portraying a character with startling moral complexity.

For ninety minutes, this is masterful storytelling; then the story ends, and the film, incredibly, continues.

The split-screen faux-documentary footage that dominates the remainder of the movie, with Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone (in a fat suit no more convincing then Jiminy Glick) as confused parents, threatens to ruin everything and very nearly does; many will find these directorial indulgences unforgivable.

Rarely does a film provide the good and bad in such stark contrast, but it´s on grotesque display here. Recommended with reservations.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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