ALPHA DOG

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Posted October 17, 2007 in Film

 “I’m not interested in making a 90-minute version of America’s Most Wanted,” writer-director Nick Cassavetes told District Attorney Ronald J. Zonen when he pressed him for access to the police files on wanted drug dealer and murderer Jesse James Hollywood. Hollywood was still on the lam (he was captured in Brazil in 2005 at the age of 25, five years after his warrant), but now that he’s standing trial, their collaboration got both in hot water—Cassavetes’ film was shelved, and Zonen is fighting to stay on the case. Hollywood’s lawyers fear that the film will publicize their client’s monstrosity. But what’s brilliant and devastating about Cassavetes’ character-driven flick is that he approaches Hollywood—named here Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch)—like a classic tragic hero too caught up in the moment to see the scope of his actions. Truelove is a 20-year-old made man, short-statured, Napoleonesque, and one of the biggest pot dealers in SoCal. He wants vengeance against an unstable dealer, Zack (Anton Yelchin), who made him look like a little bitch in front of his crew (which includes a badass Justin Timberlake), so on a whim, they kidnap Zack’s 15-year-old brother Jake (Ben Foster) with the vague idea of holding him for ransom. Three days of drugs, booze and bad decisions later, Jake’s in a shallow grave in the desert. This is the odd film where knowing the ending enriches the drama, which on the surface doesn’t look like much more than a bunch of dudes wasting time getting loaded. Only the constant whoops of “Suck my cock!” and “I’m your dog!” show a gang of restless boys who have over-subscribed to a code of loyalty and power. And Foster’s wide eyes show it’s a macho lifestyle Jake is thrilled to belong to, only he doesn’t know how momentary it is. That we do is agony, and as Cassavetes watches the noose tie slowly around all their necks, this breathtaking portrait of mistakes feels as timeless as watching Othello or Oedipus stumble toward their fates. (Amy Nicholson) 


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