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Justin Timberlake - "Alpha Dog" Movie - Comingsoon.net Review (southland tales mention)

Saturday 20 January 2007, by Webmaster

ALPHA DOG (Universal)

Starring Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Emile Hirsch, Christopher Marquette, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Willis Written and directed by Nick Cassavetes (director John Q, The Notebook; writer Blow)

Genre: Crime, Drama - Rated R

Tagline: “One crime. 3 days. 38 witnesses.” and “Inspired by a True Story” (ho hum)

Plot Summary: When L.A.’s most ambitious young drug dealer Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) gets into a feud by his hotheaded double-crossing business partner Jake (Ben Foster), Johnny has his stooges kidnap Jake’s younger brother Zack (Anton Yelchin) and hold him until Jake pays up. Little does anyone how wrong that plan would go. Of Note: Nick Cassavetes takes on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood—name changed to protect the yet-to-be-charged—with an all-star cast of hot young actors... oh, and Justin Timberlake, too.

Pros: There’s an interesting story behind the making of this true crime story from Nick Cassavetes, son of the late great indie filmmaker John Cassavetes. Having written the screenplay for the 2001 Johnny Depp crime drama Blow, Cassavetes became interested in the story of L.A. drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood, who at 20 years old, became the youngest person to appear on the FBI’s Top 10 most wanted fugitive list for kidnapping and killing the teen brother of a drug client who owed him money. It probably sounded like a good idea for a movie, so Cassavetes hired the case’s Santa Barbara deputy district attorney as a consultant on the movie, except that while he was making the movie, the real Hollywood was found and captured in Brazil, and suddenly, the movie was considered evidence in the case that might affect a juror’s judgment. Jesse James Hollywood’s attorneys have been trying to block the film’s release for over a year now even though it screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and though a federal judge has allowed Universal to release it this weekend, there’s an appeal in effect that might put a stop to it.

Having already directed Denzel Washington’s John Q and the hit romance drama The Notebook, Cassavetes decided to direct this one himself, assembling an impressive cast of young actors including Leonardo DiCaprio stand-in Emile Hirsch as “Johnny Truelove.” Hirsch has yet to star in a movie that has made more than $15 million domestically, and his last movie Lords of Dogtown, which had a similar vibe, only ended up with just over $11 million. To play Jake Mazursky, the guy who feuds with Truelove, Cassavetes hired Ben Foster, best known from his role as Angel in the recent X-Men: The Last Stand, and Anton Yelchin plays his kidnapped brother, though he also hasn’t been in much, his most prominent role being the David Duchovny directed House of D, which didn’t make much. It also stars Christopher Marquette, who co-starred with Hirsch in the 2004 bomb The Girl Next Door and in the 2005 bomb Just Friends (see where this is going yet?) To try to offset the lack of box office draw of the young cast, Cassavetes has the likes of Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone in small parts as parents of the kids, though neither has enough of a role to be included in the trailers or commercials.

The possible good news is that the movie also stars former N’Sync lead singer and pop megastar Justin Timberlake, who is being prominently featured in trailers and commercials rather than Hirsch or any of the others. Since N’Sync went on hiatus in 2001, Timberlake has two multi-platinum records that have been worldwide hits, his first record receiving 2 Grammies, and his most recent record “Future Sex/Love Sounds” being #1 on both UK and US charts and been nominated for 4 Grammys. He obviously has a lot of fans, some who might be interested in seeing how he does as an actor, and they’ll certainly have their chance this year as Timberlake is making the move to full-blown movie star, first with this, and then with a small role in Craig Brewer’s Black Snake Moan in a few months and providing his voice in what’s likely to be a huge summer hit, Shrek the Third.

Alpha Dog had a bit of buzz after its Sundance screening last year and it’s likely to have some interest due to the ongoing court case of Jesse James Hollywood, but really, that’s old news and most people have moved onto other things since the last time he was mentioned in the news. Universal may have missed their chance to strike while the iron was hot on this one.

Cons: It’s never good when a movie is delayed, and Alpha Dog has been shelved a number of times, mainly due to the ongoing case against Hollywood and the similarities between the movie and the case, which might bias jurors. The movie played at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2006, but now it’s almost a year later, and it’s finally getting a release, and not even into a lot of theatres (roughly 1,200) which shows there isn’t much interest.

None of the young cast have much history in terms of box office and most of them are not likely to be very known. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone probably won’t be very much interest to the film’s demographic, though both of their parts are so small that they can’t sell the movie based on their appearances. Even Justin Timberlake, who Universal thought would be a good selling point, hasn’t had very much luck with his first movie Edison going straight-to-video and his other film Southland Tales having been delayed for literally years. Timberlake’s former bandmates haven’t had much luck with Lance Bass starring in the stinker On the Line, though Joey Fatone had a bit more success with his next movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Fortunately, Timberlake is cooler and more popular than both of them, but really, does anyone have any interest in seeing more singers trying to act?

The movie’s likely to be targeted towards the older teen males who might be just as apt to see a movie like Children of Men or Stomp the Yard, and the younger females that might be into seeing it for Timberlake or the other cute male actors won’t be as interested in the subject matter, nor will they be able to get into the movie due to the R-Rating. One shouldn’t expect anyone over 25 to be very interested in the movie either.


Why I Should See It: Justin Timberlake!!!!! (SCREAM!!!!!)

Why Not: Justin’s not good enough an actor to sell this movie, and though there are quite a few better actors here, the material just isn’t as interesting as it might seem.

Projections: $5 to 7 million (4-day) opening weekend; $15 million total.