Posted on 1/19/07 02:56 AM
Right away, after witnessing a ridiculous "home video" montage set to "Over the Rainbow", the audience will know they're in for a long one during the beginning moments of Alpha Dog. Despite being "based on a true story," the youth culture that exists in the film could really only come from the mind of a 50 year old white man who grew up with Hollywood in his blood and background. The fact that the film was written and directed by a man who is absolutely clueless to the culture that he is trying to portray is all too transparent. It's a pure fantasy world sketched out by filmmaker Nick Cassavetes. In this world, every female is an empty vessel that is only good for ass slaps and the occasional sex romp. The mere thought of a kidnapping victim is apparently enough to get more than one of them to strip their panties off. If a female in this film is not begging to engage in fellatio then she's shrill, loud, and apparently useless. However, the film's rampant sexism and borderline misogyny only makes up a fraction of its questionable morality. It goes from relatively less frequent issues, like racially derogatory and homophobic writing, to the major issue of giving the sympathetic touch to a group of people that collaborate on a vile act. To say that the film doesn't try to emphatically show sympathy to its unforgivable characters would be a complete lie.
Perhaps it would be possible to look beyond the moral issues and terrible writing if the film had anything else going for it. But from narrative to aesthetic to actor-direction, Cassavetes blows the entire operation. The film carries no concept of "main character" whether that be in any given scene or the entire film. The characterization as a whole is laughable and is obviously a result of a writer who has absolutely no familiarity with his subjects. Cassavetes aesthetic can only be described as dull and barely even professional. The use of split-frame is pointless, and the over-saturated film stock used on *some* of the interview footage feels nothing more than amateurish. But Cassavetes biggest blunder in the role of director lies in his guidance of his actors. When I saw Cassavetes' The Notebook, I noted that the director was doing a disservice to his actors by never reigning in their performances, which allowed them to occasionally embarrass themselves on screen by over-acting. With Alpha Dog, this problem has only gotten much, much worse. Every other line of dialogue is screamed; every other scene features one or two characters with tears streaming all over thesmelves, and there are simply too many nervous twitches and emotional breakdowns to count. There is embarrassment to be felt for every actor on screen, but perhaps none more than Sharon Stone while she blubbers away in a fat suit. From the director of the nearly unbearable John Q and the equally unbearable The Notebook, comes a film that somehow manages to be much worse than expected.
Note: The body of this review unfortunately does not touch on a particular scene where a kung-fu fight, straight out of a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, breaks out during a house party. It is simply too inexplicable for the written word.