There will come a time where actors and actresses will decide to take on a role that will break the mold of their idoldom, and shed those cute, goody two shoes image for something that could demonstrate and add some depth to their credibility. So taking on more edgy, angsty characters might just be their quick solution. Anne Hathaway lost her clothes and borrowed a foul mouth for her turn in Havoc, and Justin Timberlake here lost his coolness but almost always brought sexy back in his scenes, despite having tattoos riddling his toned body, and adopting as foul a mouth as Hathaway's Allison Lang.
Nick Cassavetes' Alpha Dog, the closing film of Sundance 2006, tells of a true story, with a little mockumentary spin put on. Alpha Dog is like a Beverly Hills 90210 episode gone all wrong, where rich kids spend all their time in vice activities, including smoking weed (they even grow their own in their backyard), guzzling tonnes of alcohol, humping anything that moves, and peppering their vocabulary with expletives. I swear almost every sentence has the F-word in its numerous permutations, showcasing that it is indeed a word for any occasion.
And it makes you wonder how much trouble these perpetually high bored kids get into so easily, without using their brains much and constantly shooting from their hips. For every action, there is reaction, and without considering the circumstances and outcome, personal pride, ego, or just blind faith, can bring about a chain of events with outcomes that are inevitable. Johnny Truelove (up and coming actor Emile Hirsh, who had starred in Lords of Dogtown, and the upcoming Speed Racer as Speed) and Jake Mazursky (Angel in X3) can't settle their feud over a few hundred bucks, and bad blood start to spill when boisterous dares under the influence of alcohol become tit for tat revenge. In a mindless spur of the moment retaliation, Jake's brother Zack (Anton Yelchin, he one who will be Chekov in the new Star Trek movie) gets bundled into a van, leaving everyone perplexed just what to do next.
Timberlake, being an idol, gets to portray his character with pretty much being the best of the worst of them all. Being easy going and the man with the plan, he strikes up a brotherly friendship with Zack, which is possibly the number one rule of kidnapping, never to do. Getting chummy with your prey is always bad karma, and hinders hard decisions made. But for the most parts of the movie, this friendship takes centerstage. But that's not to say the rest of the cast were strolling in the park, as Hirsh was excellent in his role as the crazed, dazed and confused de facto leader Johnny Truelove, with his impulses usually getting the best (worse?) out of him. Looking pretty much like a bearded Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond and The Departed, there's a little Catch Me If YOu Can spin in the latter half of the story, with unexpected help from Dad (Bruce Willis, in yet another supporting role).
There are a number of recognizable faces playing supporting roles here, like Sharon Stone and Dominique Swain (she has disappeared for a long time), but the narrative calls for nothing much from them. Perhaps one of the best scenes was a reminisce of the car ride in Seven, with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman driving Kevin Spacey, ad he rattles off his motives and rationale behind what he's doing. In the equivalent here, there was a tinge of sadness, and how it played out to the end will no doubt bring about some very mixed emotions, all rolled into one. If there's any moment from the movie that can justify putting a bum in the seat, this will be my justification.
Those who can't survive listening to obscenities being rattled off with aplomb, or can't bear to witness their idol mouthing off, should steer clear of Alpha Dog. Otherwise, it offers, like Voice of a Murderer, a Crimewatch like narrative that recounts real events, and of course with certain dramatic license taken.