Alpha Dog is one of those movies that I remember coming out when I was younger and was too young to see. I remember watching the trailer for Clerks 2 over and over again for whatever reason. I think Jason Mewes dancing and rapping was funny to a young Kyle. Alpha Dog is a totally different movie than what I remembered the trailer being about 10 years ago. This is a true story about the kidnapping and subsequent murder of a young teenager living in the Valley of Los Angeles.
Emile Hirsch pulls together a fantastic performance as deranged and insecure drug dealer Johnny Truelove. He digs himself into a hole that he can never climb out and is destined to take down everyone else around him. This includes his right hand man Frankie, played by Justin Timberlake. Timberlake is so good at his job here, as he is able to be devilishly charming and make you forget that he had just as much to do with the kidnapping as Johnny. His ability to manage the audience emotions and perception of things is brilliant. Johnny’s father is played by Bruce Willis who was great. When he wants to try and be an actor, not Bruce Willis in a movie, he is worth every dollar of his salary. He is able to be menacing and caring in one fell swoop. Anton Yelchin plays Zach, the fifteen year old boy who is kidnapped for his brother’s drug debt. This was his true breakout role and perfected the psyche of a fifteen year old kid. Between arguing with his parents and looking up to a less than ideal role model (his brother) we understand why Zach may not want to run back to his home. He needed a break from his parents and this allowed him to break free and let loose. Towards the end, he turns back into the fifteen year old boy, talking about how he should be nicer to his mom and how she is his best friend. Truly a heartbreaking moment as he walks to his grave unbeknownst to him.
The true star of this movie was Ben Foster as the mentally unstable Jake. The brother of the victim managed to show rage unseen since Al Pacino. His ability to go from zero to sixty in an unfathomable amount of time is remarkable. You can see the rage in his eyes and feel the emotion in his voice. When he tells Johnny that he will find him and slit his throat, you believe it. Provoking Jake was never a good idea and getting him fired from his job after a fit of rage showed his true acting skills. I would love Ben Foster to be the new face of freakouts. It is time for Pacino to retire that role to someone deserving.
The scariest part of this movie is the fact that it is all based on a true story. We will never know the true dialogue between the real life perpetrators, but you can imagine that it would have been similar. The fact that an innocent boy was slain for twelve-hundred dollars is sickening. The ego’s and pseudo-pride these men had to not do the right thing and just return Zach back to his home is disturbing. All of this could have been prevented. This is also a great case study of nature vs. nurture. Would Johnny Truelove be a drug dealer if his father wasn’t connected? We may never know and unfortunately for that, a life has been taken.
Alpha Dog: 8.4/10