Fake Names, True Story
|Starring:||Ben Foster , Shawn Hatosy , Emile Hirsch, Christopher Marquette, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin , Lukas Haas, Alex Kingston, Harry Dean Stanton, Dominique Swain, David Thornton, Heather Wahlquist, Olivia Wilde, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis|
“Based on a true story” is one of those taglines that could mean anything. There was this drug dealer with the unlikely name of Jesse James Hollywood who was the youngest person ever to make the FBI’s “most wanted” list. He was still on the lam when production of the film began, and the prosecutors obviously wanted “Alpha Dog” to become a theatrical episode of “America’s Most Wanted” and thus gave Cassavetes all the help he needed.
In order to avoid lawsuits, the names were changed to protect the innocent, yeah, right, like we buy that….
We begin with a TV reporter interviewing a certain Mr. Truelove (Bruce Willis), who’s son Johnny (Emile Hirsch) is the top teenaged drug dealer on the lam. He makes some comments and we go into flashback, where our villain and his homies Frankie (Justin Timberlake), Elvis (Shawn Hatosy) and Tiko (Fernando Vargas) are hanging out in Johnny’s palatial estate. All seems to be going well when former friend Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) comes up short with the full amount of a loan that he owes. Johnny throws the money in his face and tells him to come back with the whole thing. This leads to a yet another feud for Jake, since his father (David Thornton) and stepmother (Sharon Stone) won’t give him another cent.
While Jake’s reaction to his parents’ rebuff is one of just yelling and cursing, his reaction to Johnny’s tirade is a little more “energetic.” This lead to a kidnapping, or does it? Is it for ransom? No actually. It’s basically a bunch of stoners babysitting the kid and having a good time while the kid’s family goes nuts with worry and grief.
It is really amazing that “Alpha Dog” is based on a true story because, like real life, the progression of events are incredibly dumb (with the number the witnesses in the case reaching something like fifty). The believability factor is tested because various characters tell the kid to escape and he doesn’t. After all, he ‘s having too good a time. That’s California, I guess.
The acting is really good. Timberlake has his breakout performance here, proving that he’s not some pretty boy from a teen pop idol group. The rest of the cast does a good job too. The film is decent but not as good as it should have been given the cast and director. Maybe it’s the story. Wait until it hits cable.