Whenever Hollywood makes a movie about "real
kids," it's dubious because Hollywood is the opposite of reality. That's
why I love it. But sometimes they get the picture and I think Alpha
Dog is a case where Hollywood can send a message without forsaking
all entertainment value.
Movie Review: Alpha Dog
Based on the Jesse James Hollywood case, with the name cleverly changed
to Johnny Trueblood (Emile Hirsch), Alpha Dog tells the
story of privileged kids getting in trouble. Johnny and his gang decide
to kidnap the brother of a kid who owes them drug money (Ben Foster). The
hostage situation escalates with the kid bonding with the guys until things
get tragically out of hand.
Kids will surely relate to all the vulgar tough talk. I hear kids whenever
I need to go out in the real world and buy something, and they don't seem
to have much of a vocabulary. The bloody rap videos may be a bit heavy handed,
but the point is they're obsessed with a world of time wasting and mind
altering. They're all teens but nobody's in school.
So the kids play gangster. They deal drugs and run a mini-empire, threatening
any rivals who come their way. They have slutty babes all around them and
feel free to pull a gatt if bravado alone won't get the job done. It's really
exactly like Scarface or Goodfellas when
they resort to violence.
As such, there is a thrilling crime story. Every step of the crime has higher
consequences. Everyone has a backup plan, a way to make things okay, but
nobody steps into action.
It's also a parable because it is kids. They shouldn't be into this. But
that's reality. The point about parents not doing their jobs is as subtle
as the aforementioned rap videos. It's quite the coincidence when a negligent
parent picks the one night her daughter needs her to step in for an anniversary
drug orgy. But again, it's a movie and it's about all the extreme circumstances
The actors do a convincing job of playing idiots. They screech when they
don't have the capacity for rational discussion and swear because they don't
have any actual power. And I know actors like Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and
Amanda Seyfried are thoughtful, so it is a performance. But it's definitely
not like Dirty where Hollywood pretty boys are so unconvincing
as street thugs.
I actually found myself feeling a little jealous of all the sexuality around
them. I had needs that were not being fulfilled at that age, but I don't
want all the drugs required to get it. I don't like feeling altered. Maybe
it's wrong to enjoy teen sensuality (although all the actors are legal),
but that's also the point. The film will punish us for indulging with the
There are some anachronisms, like Xbox wasn't out in 1999, and maybe they
were rich enough for plasma TVs at that time, but I doubt even rich suburban
folks were on the cutting edge of HDTV. Those don't take you out of the
movie. It's just for me to show how up on technology I am.
Alpha Dog shouldn't be as controversial as it will be.
It's a story of something that does happen. It's not blowing it out of proportion.
It affects a very small community, but it's enough to say the potential
is there in every community. If people were more aware of it, it would be
just another crime movie but I see oblivious people all around me, so I
think it's a little more important than that.