Sunday, February 22, 2009

Poseur Posse


"Is this the dumbest movie ever?" That's what my wife said after hearing the first 20 minutes of Alpha Dog from the next room where she was actually contributing to the management of the household. "No" I ventured, "I think it's a good movie about the dumbest people ever." In defense of my wife, most of the movie's audio is the mtv wigger stylings of a ragtag pack of over-privileged suburban gangsta wannabes. Their leader is Johnny Truelove, (Emile Hirsch), less because he deals a little pot, but because his father Sonny, (Bruce Willis), has a reputation in the underworld and aint that so cool? Johnny's got a problem, Jake Mazursky, (Ben Foster), owes him some money and doesn't seem to be properly motivated to pay him back. Johnny's seen enough gangster movies to know that he needs to apply some pressure to the slightly unbalanced Jake, pronto, and comes up with a brilliant plan to get some respect - kidnap Jake's little brother Zack. The gang gets such a boner over "being hard" that they grab the fifteen year old kid right away and then... wait. Uh, what should we do with him? It's cool, it's cool, let's just y'know? Hangout. Zack, has the time of his life getting to hang out with the older kids, drink, smoke, swim maybe get laid, while Johnny's pot buzz and inspiration begin to clear up and the far more dangerous panic begins to set in. The climax of Alpha Dog is no surprise to anybody who's heard the story of Jesse James Hollywood, the true life inspiration for the film, but the way it gets there often is. It's a thriller with some great dramatic performances, (seriously is that Justin Timberlake?). It's another teen movie, but one with an aftertaste strong enough to be a hangover. It's a damn funny movie too. I wish we could get more of this fare out of Nick Cassevetes, son of the legend, whose other directorial work includes The Notebook and John Q. as well as the sweet-tart romantic drama She's So Lovely with Sean Penn, John Travolta and Robin Wright Penn, (SSL, btw was written by John Cassavetes). On a side-note, breath a sigh of relief that the deal for Brett Ratner to remake John Cassavetes' classic, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, fell through... (shudder). The whole world dodged a bullet there. Ooh, I know, how about a Christopher Columbus remake of Faces? But I digress. As good as Alpha Dog was, I think an even harder, funnier, sicker true-crime film about over-privileged white kids doing it like in the movies is Larry Clark's Bully, with Nick Stahl and the late Brad Renfro as a couple of teenagers whose friendship is a little too once sided. Marty, (Renfro), is tired of Bobby's, (Stahl), abuse and his girlfriend, (Rachel Miner) convinces him to enlist the help of some friends, (Bijou Phillips, Michael Pitt and the absolutely hilarious Leo Fitzpatrick - a terribly underrated actor whose turn as Telly in Clark's Kids was perhaps so dead on that nobody believed he was acting - as The Hitman). Like all of Clark's films, Bully is full of the sex and drugs and violence in the lives of teenagers and while he draws fire for it, seems accurate, (for a psuedo-sidetrip from Clark, check out the excellent, true-crime adaptation Another Day in Paradise with James Woods and Melanie Griffith. Sidetrip because it's a period piece and though it features teenaged protagonists, Vincent Kartheiser - currently tearing it up in Mad Men - and Natasha Gregson Wagner, adults for once have roles).

5 comments:

Paul Brazill said...

I liked Kids and loved another day in paradise so ta for the larry clark tip. Alpha Dog seems okay but justine timberland, or whoever he is, being in it will put a lot of people off.

jedidiah ayres said...

Paul

I hear you about Timberlake, but what the hell, he's not bad. There's a respectable body of (acting) work being racked up by former boy-banders like the Wahlbergs and Timberlake was decent in Black Snake Moan, too. It's not exactly James Taylor and Dennis Wilson in Two-Lane Black Top, but...

Paul Brazill said...

True enough.. got to give tha lad a chance. .... Just read Mahogany & Monogamy BLT and I liked it very, very much. where can i find yer other stories?

Keith Rawson said...

I'll tell you what, I wasn't too keen on Timberlake in the role either, but it seems like what ever he's been appearing in lately he tends to steal the show. Quick note on Paradise (probably one of the most under rated crime films ever.) it is actually based on the novel by the late eddie little (another interesting side note, the estate of little is the one who broke the plagiarism/falsification story of James Frey's first two books. The dude actually lifted sizable portions of story line from Little.) if you want more of the story and the aftermath of Paradise I'll diffidently recommend the follow up Steel Toes. Both are great reads. I read Little and most of Edward Bunker's cannon simultaneously, and those two were some truly screwed up characters. Great writer's though.
And thank god about Ratner. I typically don't advocate any type of violence, but seriously, somebody hit this guy in the head with a snow shovel already before he can make any more movies.

jedidiah ayres said...

Paul

Look for a story in the upcoming anthology, Sex, Thugs & Rock 'n Roll due in May/June, Plots With Guns online and the current issue (#5) of Out of the Gutter Magazine.

Brian

Thanks for the tip. Haven't read Little, but thought the book was biographical fiction. Bunker - great grim stuff.