Another dull study in explorating of American youth culture

PUBLISHED: 13:54 27 April 2007 | UPDATED: 14:31 07 September 2010

Alpha Dog (15) Directed by Nick Cassavetes. Starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Shawn Hatosy, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, 117mins Two star rating Or Bill and Ted s Inexplicable Act of Depravity?This latest Kids Are All Wrong stu

Alpha Dog (15)

Directed by Nick Cassavetes. Starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Shawn Hatosy, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, 117mins

Two star rating

Or Bill and Ted's Inexplicable Act of Depravity?This latest Kids Are All Wrong study follows in the path of films like River's Edge and Kids, works that suggest that the average American youth's grasp of right and wrong is as shaky as his understanding of geography.

This time the disaffected youths are the sons and daughters of LA's affluent San Fernando Valley. But the basics remain the same - ever so photogenic youngsters drifting aimlessly through life, their dialogue a restricted loop of sexual profanity.

The events spring from a beef over money owed to a diminutive young drug dealer Johnny Truelove (Hirsch) by the impossibly excitable hothead Jake Mazursky (an impossibly excitable Ben Foster). Truelove and some cronies are on the way to extract retribution on Mazursky for a particularly messy home invasion he'd perpetrated the night before, when they happen upon his 15-year-old half brother Zach (Yelchin) and, on a whim, sort of kidnap him. Sort of because this kidnapping is more rite of passage than terrifying ordeal, with Zach getting to hang out and party with kids a few years older than him. Things are going

so well that, when offered a chance to go home, he opts to stay on.

I always try to avoid spoilers here but this is very definitely a 'based on real events' piece and never lets you forget it. Most of its potential audience will be aware of the story behind it - the search for and trial of the real-life Truelove figure, Jesse James Hollywood, before seeing it. But even if you went into the film without any prior knowledge, when you have characters appearing on screen with little subtitles introducing them as "witnesses numbers three, four and five" it really isn't possible not to know exactly where you are heading.

Maybe Cassevetes is trying to elevate events into a modern equivalent of a classical tragedy but this Chronicle of a Death Spelt Out grates with me. I don't think the form suits the subject matter, which is really just a series of random actions, concocted on the hoof and with no great thought behind it.

Clearly, I'm lukewarm. But it's competently put together and performed and, if you get caught up in it, I can see that this might be a chilling experience.

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