I stumbled across Alpha Dog the other night on cable and found myself wrapped up in the true life teen gangster story along the lines of Larry Clark's Bully, although lighter and funnier. Dog is filled with young acting talent reminiscent of The Outsiders - The Complete Novel (Two-Disc Special Edition) combined with strong seasoned performances by Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, and Harry Dean Stanton.
Dog, directed by Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook (New Line Platinum Series)), who also played bad guy Packard Walsh in the so bad it's good 80's movie The Wraith. Amazon already does an informative write up, which talks about Cassavetes own run in with the law for his contact with the real life character behind Johnny Truelove, still on the F.B.I's ten most wanted list at the time of the film. I found that interesting. Although I disagree with their interpretation of Foster's character Jake, which I'll address.
The story, based on actual events, follows a group of suburban kids who watch music videos, act tough, drink 40's, smoke cheeba, disrespect people, and talk shiite. The leader of this crew is Johnny Truelove played by Emile Hirsch, who seems to get better with every role, and gives his best performance a year later in Into the Wild. Johnny is a smooth manipulator but gets most of his respect from his family ties, also surrounding himself with idiots doesn't hurt.
In this movie of solid performances it is Ben Foster's Jake Mazursky that steals the spotlight, as he did in similar fashion from Russel Crowe and Christian Bale in the western 3:10 to Yuma (Widescreen Edition) with his portrayal of Charlie Prince. Amazon describes Foster's character Jake as a scum bag drug addict. I disagree. There is no doubt he has a drug problem, and problems in general, but in a time when most just talk trash, Jake actually follows through. In some aspects I saw him as a stand up guy, or would be without drugs, and has a fearlessness that other men can respect, under different circumstances he could have been a leader. Ben Foster does a great job showing rage in this part with words or without. Justin Timberlake also gives a good performance as the mostly obnoxious, with hints of charisma, Frankie Ballenbacher.
The basic plot is Jake owes Johnny Truelove money. Johnny tries to disrespect Jake like he does with his other friends, but Jake isn't his other friends, and it continues to escalate from there. The crew decide to teach Jake a lesson and kidnap his younger brother, whom Jake is close with. This sets a chain of events sometimes fun and entertaining but ultimately tragic.