Sunday, February 22, 2009
"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).