Saturday, May 05, 2007

Alpha Dog: Grade A


Alpha Dog (2006)

Justin Timberlake, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, Shawn Hatosy, Anton Yelchin, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis. Writer, Director: Nick Cassavetes.

A gang of mostly white, young, drug-dealing hoodlums in LA go about their low-life activities, talking trash, strutting macho, objectifying decorative females, drinking beer (Heineken only in this movie), smoking tobacco and weed. It’s a depressing start, watching a bunch of dim bulbs.

But the pace quickens as we find that a couple of characters owe money to Hirsch, the gangleader-Godfather (looking and acting a bit like DiCaprio) who lords it over them. He’s got perfect gangleader moves, expressions, and psychopathic smiles. Foster, one of the debtors, ignites the screen with his intense performance. He sizzles like Ben Kingsley did in Sexy Beast. Genuinely scary. His little brother (Yelchin) is kidnapped as debt leverage, and Timberlake becomes his minder. Timberlake’s acting is subtle and nuanced, a revelation.

And speaking of revelations: Sharon Stone as the kidnapped boy’s mother. Where has that performance been all her career? Unbelievable. There is a lot of outstanding acting in this movie: stars of tomorrow. The directing is hard to describe, but the result feels real, human, and intimate, not cartoony like so many gangster movies. The influence of the Godfather and Goodfellas is evident, but these gangsters are scary because they haven’t got a clue. Their wealthy, self-obsessed, absent parents render a subtle social commentary. Some split screen shots showing different camera angles add interest, but I didn’t understand what they meant. This movie was a real surprise. It will be a classic.

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