When you are doing a film that is based on true events you have to be very careful about showing those involved the respect they are due. This is especially true when your story involves the death of a person. I am not sure that director Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook, She's So Lovely) has shown the situation or the people involved that type of respect. The film is a weird mélange of a funny, loose film with a couple of minutes of deadly serious. It is almost schizophrenic. The film goes along being very superficial and casual for most of its run and then in the last 10 minutes it tries to pull off serious and moving. For the most part it does not work. You cannot make a film that is all MTV hip hop video like into Scorsese all of a sudden and retain any credibility from your audience. It is an interesting story which has been turned into a caricature. Cassavetes had to decide which type of film he was making and stick to it.
Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsh – Lords of Dogtown, The Girl Next Door) is a smalltime drug dealer who is living life large. Backed by his father, Sonny (Bruce Willis – Die Hard, Lucky Number Slevin), Johnny has the dumb blonde girlfriend, house with a pool and big screen television that every young man dreams of. He does not seem to do much except hang out with his friends, Tiko (Fernando Vargas – first film), Frankie (Justin Timberlake – On the Line) and Elvis (Shawn Hatosy – Anywhere But Here, The Cooler). This gang is nothing more than a bunch of wannabes. They are young boys playing an experienced man's game. Surprisingly everything is going along smoothly until Jake (Ben Foster – X-Men: The Last Stand, Phone Booth) cannot pay Johnny the money he owes him. Jake is a junkie who is capable of violence and unpredictable. Johnny does not have the muscle to back up his threats. In a stroke of dumb luck, Johnny, Frankie and Tiko run into Jake's younger brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin – from television's Huff), who has run off from his home. They take him as a hostage, but really don't know what to do with him. While Zack's mom (Sharon Stone – Casino, Bobby) and dad (David Thornton – Home Alone 3, Mrs. Parker and Vicious Circle) search desperately for their son, Zack is living the life he always wanted with Frankie. Johnny does not know how to give Zack back. You can smell the trouble brewing.
Though Cassavetes does not come right out and say it, the film is supposed to be a criticism of the type of lifestyle that many aspire to. It is a life full of pretense, money, drinking and drugs, and very little adult guidance. There are very few repercussions for action and little to no morals with this lifestyle. Everyone is living for the here and now. The thing is that this type of lifestyle comes off (until the very end) as a very appealing one. Why wouldn't a young person choose it? Because of this unevenness of the story many scenes come off as ridiculous and people might find themselves laughing when humour was not intended. Unfortunately, the message that came out of the film was that everything is ridiculous. It does not make you realize how actions have reactions and that a human life was lost due to a drug debt of $2,500. A wasted opportunity for this director and his film. Oh, and for those of you that care…Justin Timberlake was not too bad in his role. I guess he can act; it was just the film that was all wrong.
– Scene Access
-A Cautionary Tale: The Making of Alpha Dog