Alpha Dog

Release Date: January 12, 2007
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Movie of the Day for Friday, November 10, 2006
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Hey, Emile. Why so glum?

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
3/22 Amanda Jones Timberlake is so stunningly charismatic onscreen I actually forget his boy-band roots.
20/50 Michael Bentley The movie really stumbles in the final act. Quite enjoyable overall though, and Timberlake is actually a very promising actor.
40/214 Max Braden Timberlake is an effortless and natural performer. The movie could have been better (and shorter) without the interviews.

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Two of the prettiest men in Hollywood team up in New Line's movie about one of the ugliest "true crime" stories from the past few years - Jesse James Hollywood, one of the youngest men to ever make the FBI's "Most Wanted" list. Emile Hirsch (most recently of "Lords of Dogtown" fame) plays Johnny Truelove, the screen-moniker for Jesse James Hollywood. Justin Timberlake co-stars as Trueloves's best friend. Nick Cassavetes, the director of "The Notebook," follows up his top 100 performance in the World Series of Poker by directing this film..

The central plotline revolves around Truelove/Hollywood, an alleged drug-dealer also accused of kidnapping and murder. Based on news reports over the past few years, we have some indication of the basic storyline.

In real life (if there is such a thing in Southern California), the boyish Hollywood (allegedly) ran an extensive drug ring in the San Fernando Valley that trafficked in Canadian marijuana. He made enough money to buy his own three bedroom, two bath ranch home in the West Hills and turn it into a sort of ersatz pirate/vagabond hideout for his crew of teenage and 20-something Valley Boys. Los Angeles Magazine once described them as "[S]lackers with an edge, children of relative privilege yet barely functional as adults. They came from nice homes, but broken families. They attended the finest schools without opening their eyes. When they lost their way, it had more to do with abundance - too much freedom, too much money, too much time - than with deprivation." Personally, I think that's a bit too flowery, but you get the picture.

A drug dispute among Hollywood's gang led to the kidnapping and murder of a 15-year-old boy in August 2000, the younger brother of one of Hollywood's own henchmen. Several of Hollywood's associates were arrested, tried, and convicted in the murder, but Hollywood himself was only implicated. He fled to South America and was arrested in Brazil in early 2005. Authorities found him living with a young woman in the posh beach district of Rio De Janeiro, a lifestyle he was able to afford thanks to the $1200 allowance his parents sent him every month. Personally, I'm still trying to figure out why it took five years to find the kid when his parents were wiring him over a thousand dollars in cash every month. But that's just me.

Hollywood is scheduled to stand trial later this year, which is great news for the American system of justice and our international treaties covering the extradition of criminals, but could be bad news for New Line Cinema. Filming wrapped on this movie when Hollywood was still on the lam. Production continued after his arrest, and New Line screened the film on August 2, 2005, but one wonders if its release will be delayed until after Hollywood's trial is complete. Complicating matters further, Hollywood's defense attorneys have requested that the Santa Barbara County district attorney's office turn over a detailed list of information that prosecutors shared with the "Alpha Dog" filmmakers. Nick Cassavetes himself was subpoenaed. If this keeps up, we're heading into Robert Altman territory, where the movie will end with its own director and producers taking the stand.

With all these legal wranglings, some people are already drawing comparisons to "Domino," the movie based on the real-life tragedy of Domino Harvey, starring Keira Knightly. Domino Harvey is the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey, who starred alongside Frank Sinatra in the original Manchurian Candidate. She left behind a lucrative modeling career (with Ford Models no less) for a troubled life as a nightclub manager, firefighter, and finally, bounty hunter. The movie "Domino" has already re-shot its ending once to account for Harvey's arrest on charges of dealing methamphetamines, and may have to do so again after Domino died in late June 2005 (whether her death was an accidental drowning in her bathtub or a suicide has yet to be determined).

"Alpha Dog" simply illustrates a fundamental aspect of the movie industry - if you're going to portray current events, especially in the true crime genre, then shoot fast, shoot often, and leave enough budget to re-shoot the ending. Over and over again, if necessary.

Emile Hirsch seems the perfect choice for playing Jesse James Hollywood. His "Lords of Dogtown" experience shows he can ably portray a character amongst a group of SoCal malcontents, and he has that same discordant mash-up of traits that Hollywood has. Hollywood had a grittiness, burgeoning swagger, and flippant con-man attitude uncommon in young-twenty-something men, which Hirsch pulled off admirably in "Lords of Dogtown." And both could pass for 15-year-old boys in poor lighting. But Cassavetes took a risk casting Timberlake.

This is Timberlake's second feature film after debuting in the upcoming "Edison" in a role supporting Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, and L.L. Cool J. Insiders have given him good reviews for his acting chops and say that the public will be presently surprised, but still ... . Hanging out with Pharrell Williams might give him the image of a gangster -- whether he can truly portray the corruption and suburban malaise at the heart of Hollywood's gang is an open question.

Dominique Swain has a major role in the movie, along with an eclectic cast - Bruce Willis (portrays Hollywood's father), Ben Foster (acting as the skinhead brother of the murdered kid), Sharon Stone (apparently the murdered boy's mother). Fernando Vargas, Olivia Wilde, Lukas Haas, Harry Dean Stanton, and Heather Wahlquist have minor roles. (Joel Corcoran/BOP)

Vital statistics for Alpha Dog
Main Cast Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone
Supporting Cast Dominique Swain, Bruce Willis, Charity Shea, Heather Wahlquist
Director Nick Cassavetes
Screenwriter Nick Cassavetes
Distributor Universal
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site
Rating R
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Alpha Dog
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Catch Me If You Can 12/27/0230.08 31.27 3156 9532.00 9532.0 164.61 171.14 4.85
Face/Off 6/27/9723.39 30.72 2621 8924.00 11276.5 112.28 147.50 4.80
Traffic 1/5/0115.52 16.56 1510 10277.00 10549.8 124.11 132.46 7.96
Blow 4/6/0112.44 13.27 2249 5535.00 5681.9 52.94 56.50 4.26
Lords of Dogtown 6/3/055.62 5.62 1865 3015.21 3015.2 11.01 11.01 0.00



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