Alpha Dog

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Alpha Dog
Review (8/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Alpha Dog is the movie based on the true story of a group of drug-dealing gangster wannabes whose lifestyle is something that you think you would only see in a movie. Led by their ringleader Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), the gang kidnaps the brother of a "business partner" who owes money. The whole thing starts out as more of a juvenile prank and Zack (Anton Yelchin), the kidnapee, is left in the care of one of Truelove's cronies, Frankie Ballenbacher (Justin Timberlake). The duo strike up a relationship that results in a whole lot of partying, booze, drugs and bikini-clad women. Things actually seem to be going pretty well for Zack until Truelove starts to think a bit too much and realizes that if they let Zack go, he and his posse are going to go to jail. Seventy-two hours later and with a measly $1,200 debt still unpaid, Zack is dead and Truelove is on the run. Welcome to the 21st century where drugs, guns, war and murder seem to be your average, everyday occurence.

Going into Alpha Dog, I really didn't know a whole lot about the movie or the story. In fact, the only thing that I think I knew was that Justin Timberlake was in the movie. Didn't know it was based on a true story until the movie was over. Didn't know it starred Emile Hirsch, Bruce Willis or Sharon Stone. Really didn't know anything. And watching the movie and not knowing it was a true story really made me angry. I was thinking, who could make such a movie about a bunch of punks and what kind of influence would it have on today's kids, especially since it starred a pop icon like Timberlake. But knowing it was a true story and seeing these punks were thrown into jail and a couple of them are sitting on death row really made things a whole lot more enjoyable. Actually, I'm quite surprised Alpha Dog has been released at all, given the fact that the person based on the character Johnny Truelove (his name is Jesse James Hollywood) is still being tried.

Nevertheless, Alpha Dog, in the end, is quite the movie. It's brutal, shocking and really shows a lifestyle that I personally never want to be a part of and which really should just be left to the movies. The parents of these kids should be ashamed of themselves, if this movie had any truth in their parenting skills. Assisting your son with his drug dealing? Dropping your kids off at a hotel room party? Allowing your kids to swear at you like you're something on the bottom of their shoe? It's really quite shameful. And you would almost think these people grew up in a trailer park or the ghetto but these people lived in supposedly affluent neighbourhoods and Hollywood mansions.

In the end, my opinion of Alpha Dog is that it's a brutal gangster movie but this time around the gangsters aren't big fat Italian men or Robert De Niro. This time they're probably not even 20 years old. The cast is solid and led by outstanding performances by Emile Hirsch and JT. When you realize this movie is based on a true story, you might be shocked. I've never been a huge supporter of the death penalty. In fact, I'm kind of on the fence on the whole issue but knowing a waste of skin like Jesse James Hollywood is sweating it out on death row certainly doesn't make me sad.

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