Alpha Dog review by Rosie

Alpha Dog

(Inhale) Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, pffffffffffffffffff . Where to begin . Well, might as well just get the obvious part out of the way first. Yes, this is that Justin Timberlake movie. The one that was supposed to finally wash that boy-band stink off him for good. Lets just say they missed a spot. Its hard to convey how glaringly the prince of bubble-gum pop stood out in scenes among real actors, trying to play a gangstafied white boy from southern California. There simply arent enough Sharpie tattoos and wife-beater tees in the world to hide the fact that he is still Justin Timberlake. I dont even think a Darth Maul costume could make this guy look menacing. His teeth would still be too non-threateningly white. And these are just the issues with how he looks. Then come the scenes when he talks. There are really two ways to look at these scenes, either as uncomfortably distracting or as the funniest thing youve ever seen in your life. Just picture a bunch of wannabe gangster white kids sitting around talking who, at least, have their rap down pretty natural by now. Then picture JT trying to join in with them.

Gangsta Kid 1: Ohh s*#t, man. What happened to you?
Gangsta Kid 2: Got jacked. Jakes crew, man. Waitin on me.
Justin Timberlake: (dramatically raising arms up over head like a Y and stepping into scene), Yo, dog! Thats whack! We gotsta represent, yo! Ahh, Dee-amn, Im onna bus em up, yo. Fo real. (glances, barely perceptibly, at the camera with a proud-of-himself smile, then looks back at Gangsta Kids 1 & 2)
Gangsta Kids 1 & 2: (silent pause)

Ok, so that exact scene didnt happen, but they were all pretty much like that. Every scene Timberlake talks in, he sounds like one of those motivational speakers who are hired to come and talk to high school kids because he can relate to them. As soon as he asks the teachers to leave the room, he breaks out his Sweet. Now that the wardens are gone, maybe we can finally just kick it a little. Cool? They all wanted me to come here and tell you about the dangers of marijuana, but I just wanna chill for a few minutes and rap with you about grass, routine. You get the idea. No matter how hard he tries, Timberlake brings that same sort of falseness to every scene simply by the fact that he is undeniably not really a part of this culture (the gangsta one or the actor one).

The unfortunate part is that this movie was otherwise kind of decent. Emile Hirsch struck just the right note of scared, angry and brooding as Johnny Truelove, the rich, wannabe thug, gang leader from a messed up home who is constantly conscious of the danger of being exposed as a fraud. Ben Foster gives the most emotionally-charged performance of the film as Jake Mazursky, the bad seed, skinhead older son from a wealthy family who gets drawn into an escalating battle with Johnny and his crew. Bruce Willis is pretty good as Johnnys dad and Harry Dean Stanton is uncomfortably hilarious as Johnnys granddad. Sharon Stone was actually also really good in this, carried mostly by her performance in one emotional monologue late in the movie, which came as a surprise to me since I had no idea she was even in this movie. Or acting. Or alive.

The biggest problem with this movie, overall, could be summed up simply under the term indecision. Just like JT in his attempt to play a bad boy role without fully committing and potentially alienating some of his middle-school fan base, there were several ways in which this movie lost its potential impact by not being able to decide what it wanted to be. A recurring reporter and a few interspersed interview-type scenes hinted at a narrative that was supposed to be being told in an investigative-reporter-piecing-together-clues-to-the-crime type story. But the vast majority of it was just shown in present tense, standard narrative style. The length of time between seeing the reporter with one character and the next, and the number of scenes between them, make it obvious that the last person he spoke with couldnt have been telling him all that we just saw. Not to mention the fact that none of the people he interviewed were actually in the vast majority of the scenes anyway, so they wouldnt have known. It all just makes the reporters presence when he does show up kind of annoying and pointless in a way that makes you think, What kind of movie is this trying to be? Hey, isnt that Justin Timberlake? Oh, yeah

As far as this whole indecision theme goes, there was also one particular scene that was just awful for the way it stood out as so obviously not belonging in this movie. In the middle of what is otherwise a semi-realistic crime retelling drama (the movie is based on a true story by the way), there is one fight scene that is so ridiculously choreographed that you can literally see some of the get-beat-up extras start to jump in, then hesitate because they almost jumped their cue, hang back for a second so theres not more than one person jumping in at a time while the star beats up everyone in the room, then jog into the fray to get fake-punched and take a wildly demonstrative dive. This was never a big-fight action movie and this whole scene seemed jarringly out of place as a result. Though it was somewhat interesting to see how stupid those action movie fights look in the wrong genre. Also, they didnt set any music to the scene. Do you know how silly those action-packed choreographed fights look without background music? I do.

Again, ultimately this was a movie with good potential that just got absolutely submarined by the hype that got attached to it as being Justin Timberlakes big acting debut, as well as by his constantly distracting presence. Imagine if Mr. Rogers had been cast instead of Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen in The Godfather. Yeah, technically hes not one of the most central characters to the story, but hes important enough that a casting decision like that would just be so distracting that no one would remember anything else. Unfortunately it looks like that will be the fate for both Alpha Dog and Justin Timberlake himself - both potentially likable if things had been different, but ultimately unable to escape their own overwhelming justintimberlakeness.

4 out of 10 Jackasses
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