By George Rose
June 2, 2009
Alpha Dog (2006)
This film is a tribute to the summer movie season old and new. First I must note the plot, so as to get it out of the way for the more interesting reasons for the films selection. Inspired by true events, the story follows drug-dealer Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) as he kidnaps the younger brother (Anton Yelchin) of one of his fellow drug-dealers (Ben Foster) who owes him money. Yelchin's character gets a little too comfortable being kidnapped and gets friendly with his captors, but when Foster's crazed character refuses to pay and begins hunting down Truelove, things start to get out of control.
Why is this in honor of the summer season? Nick Cassavetes (the man behind the summer hit The Notebook and the upcoming My Sister's Keeper) directs this cast of summer stars, including Anton Yelchin of this year's T4 and Star Trek (he sure hired the right agent), Emile Hirsh of Speed Racer (who hired the wrong agent and has been working all too hard for his breakthrough), Ben Foster of X-Men 3 (I'm sure the Archangel spinoff is right around the corner), Amanda Seyfried of Mamma Mia! (boy did she strike gold) and Justin Timberlake of... ummm... was he in anything other than The Love Guru? Let's not forget Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone. You may have heard of those names before, too.
While the movie underperformed at the box office, the directing/acting team behind it should have propelled the film a bit higher. I didn't expect much of it because of Cassavetes, who is best known for tugging at our heart strings, but was pleasantly surprised. Considering the stars were all still up-and-coming, the acting was extremely believable and I definitely started to form tears toward the end. There was no way I could have predicted I would have enjoyed the film, since it was before most of these actors made it big and what I knew going into it was enough to make me run from the theater, but despite all it had against it I am glad Fios forced it upon me once again.
Some movies have low expectations but turn out great (Star Trek). Some movies look great and turn out bad (Wolverine). Some look bad and are bad (Angels and Demons) and some look good and are good (Up). While Alpha Dog is no Star Trek, it falls into the category of films that didn't have much going for it that turned out to be a hidden gem. Now that all the stars have gone onto bigger and better things, go back and watch Alpha Dog. I saw it before the stars released their summer blockbuster offerings, but if you haven't yet, then it should appeal to you in the same way Smart People appealed to me: a more serious film full of stars you know and love that does more for your enjoyment as a fan of actors than it does for box office receipts.