Monday, April 9, 2007

Alpha Dog

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Back in my work and surf days, I read the story of Jessie James Hollywood at CourtTV's crimelibrary. 

Hollywood was the youngest person on the FBI's most wanted list. The 19-year old drug dealer conspired to kidnap then kill the innocent brother of another dealer who hadn't paid off a drug debt. The intriguing story inspired the movie Alpha Dog, which stars Justin Timberlake and other big names who play small but crucial parts. The writer insists the screenplay is 90% true, and in my opinion they generally stuck to the story Court TV presented, with a depth that illustrated the senselessness of the crime and the motivations, lifestyle, and bad decisions that fueled it. Eva Cassidy's haunting version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" surprisingly plays during the opening credits as a montage of creepy, grainy video clips of young boys sets the scene of privilege and permissive parenting.

Justin Timberlake plays an irresistibly charismatic character named Frankie whose allegiance to Johnny Truelove (based on Jessie James Hollywood) leads to his participation in the impulsive kidnapping of  Zack, the 15-year old half-brother of ne'r do well druggie Jake. Zack is rebelling against his strict mother, who is trying to keep him from turning into his older brother. He understandably seals his own fate by refusing a chance to escape and waiting obediently outside a liquor store while Frankie buys them booze. He is later seduced, both literally and figuratively, in a Palm Springs paradise of tough guys, swimming pools, and an endless supply of drugs and young women.

Frankie spends his lazy, drug-hazed days cultivating his father's marijuana crop and entertaining friends at his palace while watching over Zack, who clearly looks up to him. The older youth's pangs of conscience are palpable when he realizes that Truelove intends to have him murder Zack to avoid a life-sentence for kidnapping. The moment that Zack realizes his "friends" intend to kill him and a conflicted Frankie betrays him is heart wrenching. A witness count is provided for the duration of the movie, showing how many people went along with the crime rather than disrupt the drug-fueled status quo. A cosmetically fattened Sharon Stone provides a chilling epilogue as Zack's mom. During her overmedicated ranting from a state mental hospital she exclaims "If God has a purpose for me he needs to get the f*ck down here and tell me what it is!"

I highly recommend this one...

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