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Alpha Dog

By G. Brian Davis | Posted 1/17/2007

The first question everyone asks is, "So how was Justin Timberlake?" Surprisingly, the question isn't as irrelevant as it sounds. Writer-director Nick Cassavetes fashions Alpha Dog, a passable teen dramedy, after the troubled life of Jesse James Hollywood, who was among the youngest men ever to grace the FBI's Most Wanted list. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), a suburban Los Angeles drug dealer connected through his dad (Bruce Willis), lives the grit-glam California dream: fat cars and houses, thin girls and televisions, thugwear and guns. But there's trouble in paradise: To collect a debt, he takes the debtor's kid brother (Anton Yelchin) hostage, enlisting his friend Frankie (Timberlake) to occupy the boy with parties and girls. Cassavetes effectively inserts typed labels announcing witnesses and the like to shape the story, but the flash-forward interviews only distract and interrupt the narrative. Ragged humor helps carry the attention-deficit target audience through a largely uneventful plot, but Dog never reaches its aspired poignancy. And yes, Timberlake performs convincingly as himself: a suburban white boy who parties, gets laid, and believes himself a tough guy. More importantly, though, he succeeds as a gelatinous moral yolk in a scramble of drugs, sex, and money, disturbingly representing the "norm" of a decidedly abnormal subculture.

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