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Alpha Dog (2007)

TOMATOMETER

Average Rating: 5.5/10
Reviews Counted: 143
Fresh: 78
Rotten: 65

Critics Consensus: A glossy yet unflinching portrait of violent, hedonistic teenagers. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone chew the scenery, while Justin Timberlake gives a noteworthy performance.

Average Rating: 5.3/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 21
Rotten: 21

Critics Consensus: A glossy yet unflinching portrait of violent, hedonistic teenagers. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone chew the scenery, while Justin Timberlake gives a noteworthy performance.

AUDIENCE SCORE

Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 421,802

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Movie Info

Frankie is a Los Angeles drug dealer. He comes from a good family, owns his home, several cars and enjoys partying with his friends. Frankie is 19. When his friend Jake welches on a debt, Frankie and his boys kidnap Jake's 15-year-old brother Butch and hold him as a marker. Even though Butch has numerous chances to escape, he doesn't. He's enjoying partying with them, losing his virginity and having a good time -- until something goes horribly wrong.

Rating:
R (for pervasive drug use and language, strong violence, sexuality and nudity)
Genre:
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Nick Cassavetes
In Theaters:
On DVD:
May 1, 2007
Box Office:
$15.1M
Runtime:
Universal Studios - Official Site


Cast



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Critic Reviews for Alpha Dog

All Critics (145) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (78) | Rotten (65) | DVD (18)

A movie which has been put together with occasional skill but lacks a compelling reason to exist.

Full Review… | April 19, 2007
Time Out
Top Critic

Justin Timberlake has what it takes to be a genuine movie star.

February 5, 2007
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic

The worst movie of the year.

Full Review… | February 3, 2007
Time Out New York
Top Critic

Alpha Dog is no travesty, but I would trade 95 percent accuracy for, say, 25 percent insight.

Full Review… | January 13, 2007
CNN.com
Top Critic

Cassavetes starts to lose the plot at the precise moment he starts keeping exact track of it.

Full Review… | January 12, 2007
Toronto Star
Top Critic

[Alpha Dog is] intermittently bemused or tragic, but utterly lacking a conscience or a point of view.

Full Review… | January 12, 2007
AV Club
Top Critic

This inspired-by-reality tale is essentially an emotional snuff film. It's the kind of misguided effort a middle-aged director indulges in when he wants to reinvent himself as edgy.

Full Review… | November 6, 2010
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Cassavetes' film is pure Hollywood fiction and sensationalism mixed with some sense of reality, but hell I enjoyed it a great deal...

Full Review… | August 10, 2007
Cinema Crazed

A lackluster teenage true-crime tale.

Full Review… | June 25, 2007
IGN Movies

Stylishly and thoughtfully directed by Nick Cassavetes, Alpha Dog is occasionally chilling, but always absorbing.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Sunday Mirror [UK]

Its originality lies in the fact that it depicts white middle-class kids on the loose, calling their women bitches and listening endlessly to violent, misogynist and homophobic black rap.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
This is London

Nick Cassavetes' film combines an aimless ramble through juvenile depravity in the affluent suburbs of LA and a quite disturbing evocation of the true-life murder of an adolescent boy in 1999.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Independent

It's Beverly Hills 90210 on crystal meth as a gang of posh potheads lose the plot when a kidnapping goes wrong.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Sun Online

The movie may lose its way in the last 15 minutes but everything leading up to that point is gripping, edge-of-your-seat stuff.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Daily Mirror [UK]

Lengthy and often off-hot topic, this is still a gripping saga with stand-out turns from Timberlake, Hirsch and kid-in-the-spotlight Yelchin.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Total Film

You know you're in trouble the second you take a look at Bruce Willis's fake liver spots.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Daily Telegraph

Overall though, it's a messy, superficial affair: it lacks focus, shifts uneasily in tone, and shoehorns in star names (Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis) to little effect.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Guardian

True, Alpha Dog is a film with no manners. But it has great nerve. What's truly impressive is how the splintered story is buried by individual performances.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Times [UK]

Worth seeing for Stone's grotesque bow and some great youthful performances. But it's not half as gritty as it thinks it is.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007

It suffers from ADD, but there's some terrific stuff in here. Leaving 15 minutes from the end and saving yourself a lumbering coda may improve enjoyment.

Full Review… | April 20, 2007
Empire Magazine

Emotionally engaging, impressively directed and frequently tense drama with strong performances from a terrific ensemble cast.

Full Review… | April 19, 2007
ViewLondon

Cassavetes uses a wide arsenal of flashy techniques...but his stylistic fourishes and some committed performances cannot disguise a certain emptiness where there should be tragedy.

Full Review… | April 17, 2007
BBC.com

Cassavetes, first and foremost, made Alpha Dog a great ensemble piece, a decision that really distinguishes the film from its lesser teenage crime counterparts.

Full Review… | March 24, 2007

As it happens, not all dogs to to heaven. Some go straight to hell, and Alpha Dog gets there faster and stays there longer than most.

Full Review… | March 4, 2007
Nick's Flick Picks

The film's most resonant insight%u2014not a new one%u2014is that the boys' mutual violence and abuse form a sort of intimacy. No matter what else they miss, they understand their own fearfulness and disloyalty.

Full Review… | February 24, 2007
PopMatters

Audience Reviews for Alpha Dog

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]

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Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

I hated this film immensely. The characters are very unlikable, I guess they're meant to be but without a protagonist or anyone to get behind it becomes a tiresome wait for the end credits. I know it is unfair to compere someone to their parents when they're parents were so successful but I'm going to anyway because I really think Nick Cassavetes is cashing in on the family name. He's roped in all his Dad's mates for starters - all are horrible in his films because he can't direct (or write) for toffee. The direction on this film is horrible. I think Ben Foster probably came out best in this mess but over acting is at least acting. If I could unwatch any film it would be this one. No redeeming features. Don't get me started on Sharon Stones fat suit...

More
SirPant
Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer

Based on a true story, this is a movie about a feud between a couple of thuggish young punk dopers that escalates into dangerous territory with tragic results when kidnapping and violence enter the picture.

Johnny Truelove is a flashy pot dealer who hates when people owe him money. When the volatile Jake Mazursky owes him such a debt, but double crosses him, Johnny and his cohorts resort to kidnapping Jake's little brother as collateral.

Things get interesting when the kid, Zack, who has many chances to escape, decides that he's okay with the situation, and wants to stay. He actually starts to get friendly with Johnny's right hand man Frankie who acts as the kid's handler. But unfortunately, things don't end up so wonderful when the situation becomes hard to contain, and Johnny doesn't know how to deal with it all.

The film courted controversy since it was based on an actual story, and that case was still sorta going on when the film was being made. And apparently writer/director Nick Cassavetes also had insider access to a lot of information to use in his fictionalization of things.

At first, I wasn't sure if I was gonna like this movie. Hardly any of the characters are likable, and most are absolutely awful people with few, if any redeeming qualities. I stuck with it though, since sometimes, situations that go from bad to worse are actually more interesting when you don't feel bad for anybody, and you get to see them get what they deserve. Granted, that also makes for a tough viewing experience, but thankfully, some of them do come around and I started to connect with them a little bit.

The story mostly plays out as a typical film, but is peppered with documentary style interview bits, kind of like an investigative journalism piece. I'm not against this type of storytelling, but maybe it would have been better had they just kept it like a regular movie. Or just went totally all out, and present the non-interview parts as like flashbacks or something.

Even though this is a rough movie about despicable people, I still kinda liked it. It does kinda drag on a bit at the end, but until then is pretty well paced. I think that having the characters be stupid, ineffectual, and panicky adds a nice spin to a familiar type of story, but it also makes things more wrenching since it's based on actual events. I think if I had a personal connection to this story I may not be able to enjoy, or even endure such a thing.

Even though the characters are vile, that's just the way they're supposed to be. The star studded cast do a pretty terrific job here. In smaller supporting roles we get veterans like Harry Dean Stanton, Bruce Willis, and Sharon Stone, and they do okay, but the film is practically carried by the youngsters. Emile Hirsch is fine as Johhny, Ben Foster is positively unhinged as Jake, and Anton Yelchin is pretty solid as Zack. As Frankie, Justin Timberlake is surprisingly strong. He (and some of the others) come off as trying to act black a bit too much, and it's a tad annoying, but other than that, he proves he's got chops, and I can see why he went on to make some more movies after this. We also get a host of lovely ladies including Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Amber Heard, and Dominique Swain among others.

All in all, this film is okay. It's a bit of a mess at times, but it's still rather compelling and engaging, despite the messed up scenario and wretched characters. I'm torn on the specific rating, so let's split it between 3 and 3.5. Though I'm giving it a milder recommendation, I think you should still give it a look.

More
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

½

Disturbing and powerful film. Surprisingly strong performance by Justin Timberlake and Yalchin.

More
cchclaw
Christian C

Super Reviewer

Alpha Dog Quotes


Jake Mazursky:
This is just the beginning, bitch. This is lil shooter. You're dead, homes. You hear me, you fucking dwarf! I know where your mother lives I know where your brother lives, I know where your papi lives! You wanna play some games motherfucker!
– Submitted by John D (2 years ago)
Johnny Truelove:
You ever have that dream: the one where you did something... You don't know why, but you can never go back?
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
Angela Holden:
So you're like... ransom.
Zack Mazursky:
It's ok. Its like another story to tell my grandchildren
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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