Alpha Dog Nick Cassavetes

Alpha Dog Nick Cassavetes
Alpha Dog is a teen melodrama based on the "true events” surrounding Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer, kidnapper and murderer. The biggest disappointment is the film’s total lack of authenticity. Some of the dialogue is intentionally ridiculous, like Emile Hirsch accusing someone of "acting a fool” — perhaps the screenwriter watched a few late ’90s DMX videos for inspiration. Here is the tragic joke the movie beats to death — that these kids are poseurs in over their heads — but it gets stale fast. Frequent party scenes show a wobbly Justin Timberlake laughing and carrying on like he’d just smoked his first one-hitter. Since the megastar performer admits to enjoying a variety of drugs on a recreational basis, you’d think he’d have a more nuanced performance in him. Perhaps it’s not nuance that director Nick Cassavetes wanted but instead a film with the broadest possible appeal to teen audiences. There are occasional touches where Nick still seems like the son of the brilliant John Cassavetes. A few bizarre character traits and incongruous scenes involving an amped-up antagonist provide a needed dash, however small, of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie’s irreverent style. If you’re looking for what Alpha Dog claims to be — a gritty and realistic portrayal of the stupidity of teen violence — you’d be better off with Larry Clark’s all but forgotten Bully. It has the same basic characters and themes, right down to the homoerotic tension between its would-be thugs. The difference is Clark’s edgy cinematography and enough gritty real teen sex and drug use to make JT’s demographic run back to the sanguine comfort of Justified’s liner notes and their short Hollister skirts. Conversely, Alpha Dog is most shameful when a 15-year-old character has sex with two young girls in a pool. While Larry Clark’s sex scenes are regularly criticised for exploiting young actors, at least they possess something resembling artistic authenticity. Here, it seems sleazier than Halle Berry’s titty exposure payday in Swordfish, but worse because the physical commodities used here appear to have been born in the post-1988 era. The special features could have benefited from a tight documentary on the real-life inspiration for the film. Instead, Universal provides a few paragraphs of cheap text posing as a "witness timeline” and the standard "making of” feature in which the arrogant and ignorant stars talk about this trash like it was Mean Streets. (Universal)