I didn't expect much when I loaded up the DVD player with Alpha Dog. Sure, the trailers I'd seen during the past few months made the flick look pretty cool, but you know how trailers go: most times, the trailer is simply the best parts of a movie blended.
And besides, the last time I saw a Justin Timberlake movie I was less than impressed.
I hit "play," and fast-forwarded through the opening montage of home movies that showed young children in various activities of play. In fact, I hit the "double fast-forward" button; I had no time to waste on an over-extended opening sequence. Timberlake might have successfully brought sexy back, but that cut no ice with me.
Show me some chops, kid, and I'll show you some respect.
When the montage was over and the regular speed was resumed, the first shot was of Bruce Willis. Suddenly, things changed for me. While Willis isn't Anthony Hopkins, the guy is no slouch as an actor. But more importantly, Willis seems to have a sixth sense for picking small parts in small movies that score big.
I think it's my friend Hoyt who says: "Bruce Willis don't make no bad movies."
Of course, he says it with better grammar, and without the Arnold-from-Diff'rent Strokes-imitation.
And he's right, because Alpha Dog rocks!
The flick is based on a true story, and examines the massive emotional gap that seems to exist these days between adolescence and adulthood. Those years where kids believe themselves to be invulnerable, but have such limited life experience that the decisions they make could be dangerous. That age where they believe they are living a grown-up lifestyle, but buckle under the emotional constraints that comes with a full-time job.
The opening montage (that I too quickly dismissed) was vital to the story: the movie is about innocence lost too early.
The characters in Alpha Dog--and in the true life story that inspired the movie--seem to struggle as they live in that gap. Without sound role models in their lives, each find some power and identification within popular culture: movie posters of Scarface decorate their bedroom walls, hip-hop videos shape their language and dress, and porn videos establish their sexual practices.
It's the poor decision making that is the most tragic aspect of Alpha Dog. I came to really like most of these characters, as who they really were under the caricature was revealed. Most were simply kids searching for an identity, who had no real role models in their lives. Ultimately, each gave in to the pressures they faced, and carried out actions that dramatically effected the rest of their lives.
Ben Foster--who I had only seen briefly before in the last X-Men flick--was brilliant in the supporting role of Jake Mazursky. His performance will make me see any movie he's in in the future.
He brought the chops.