Alpha Dog, Emile Hirsch, ...
Credit: Alpha Dog: Darren Michaels

As a career enhancer, Justin Timberlake’s recent rendition of ”D— in a Box” on SNL takes the gold. But I’d give his tattooed turn as Frankie, a junior gangsta straight outta L.A.’s comfy San Gabriel Valley, at least the bronze — the guy is that charming in Nick Cassavetes’ flashy bad-boy drama Alpha Dog.

Charm, though, is of little value in this noisy semi-True Hollywood Story, about Johnny (Emile Hirsch), a hotheaded drug-dealing daddy’s boy who tries to put the heat on a deadbeat associate (Ben Foster, always pleasurably scary) by holding the guy’s kid brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin), for ransom. Long story short, the kid — sweet, innocent — has a good time being kidnapped, and surrounded by naughty local babes, while Frankie starts to look on Zack as his own younger brother. Mistake.

Cassavetes (The Notebook) throws in everything he can recycle to grab a core-demo viewer — slutty teens making out, blaring rock music, guns, split screens. The implication is that too much video culture and too little parental supervision make Johnny a danger — and that it sure is fun to play at being Johnnies in movies. Or even Johnny’s parents. Bruce Willis and Harry Dean Stanton pitch in as lowlife adults. And as Zack’s histrionically distraught mother, Sharon Stone submits to a fat suit that lends her an unfortunate resemblance to Martin Short’s Jiminy Glick. C

Alpha Dog
  • Movie
  • 117 minutes