Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Issues of peer pressure and the desire to fit in are applied to young people involved in organized crime in this absorbing , fact-based drama. Los Angeles drug dealer Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) seizes the moment and kidnaps fifteen year-old Anton Yelchin off the street since his addict brother (Ben Foster) owes him a heap of money. Yelchin’s missing status sends his parents (David Thornton, Sharon Stone) into a frenzy, enrages his brother and completely bewilders Truelove’s friends, who feel that watching over the kid places them in a moral dilemma. Meanwhile, the youngster is having the time of his life, hanging with the cool L.A. teenagers, attending some wild parties and finally getting away from his overbearing parents. In making this fact-based film about the youngest person ever to make it onto America’s Most Wanted, director Nick Cassavetes can’t be fully exonerated from indulging in the exploitation of luscious, immoral teenagers for the purposes of our viewing pleasure, but there are enough high-energy scenes rife with great dialogue and good acting (not to mention tastefully edited scenes of sexual carnality) to qualify it as legitimate. Most of the cast is excellent, with standouts being Justin Timberlake as Truelove’s right-hand man and the most energetic and fun of the group; Stone makes the most of her cameo, and in her final scene gives one of the best performances of her career. Foster is also mesmerizing in one of his most insanely strange roles, though the film seems to drop him halfway through, after which point it sorely misses his energy. The weakest point, and proof that Cassavetes is a good director with an eye for performances, is Hirsch, whose poor man’s Leonardo DiCaprio is given short shrift by a director not interested in his unspectacular moments of shaggy hair and a dirty mouth. Alpha Dog might seem like Thirteen at first, but give it time and you’ll discover a fascinating voyage into a culture completely void of boundaries and suffering the (emotionally devastating) consequences of its excesses.
Screenplay by Nick Cassavetes.
Cinematography by Robert Fraisse.
Music by Aaron Zigman.
Production Design by Dominic Watkins.
Costume Design by Sara Jane Slotnick.
Film Editing by Alan Heim.