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Alpha Dog (2006)

Updated on June 23, 2020

Alpha Dog (2006) review

This is a good example of what happens when pothead kids try and act like adult gangsters. This is a film based on a true story, which makes it different from other crime dramas. The setting for this movie was southern California, which happens to be where I grew up. Not to mention the time frame of the story is right around when I was in high school, so I went to school with these types of kids. The personality types felt very accurate.

Alpha Dog (2006) was written and directed by Nick Cassavetes, and was based on the true story of the kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz in 2000. It stars Justin Timberlake, Emile Hirsch, Anton Yelchin, Ben Foster, Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone. Johnny Truelove (Hirsch) is a pot dealer who receives a steady supply from his father. One day a guy named Jake (Ben Foster) comes to Johnny and tells him he can’t pay the debt he owes him. There is a blowout between the two and over time the retaliation builds between the two until Johnny kidnaps Jake’s brother, Zack (Yelchin). Now Johnny has got himself in a bad situation and he can’t find a way out.

This was an excellent movie, the story was riveting from start to finish. It felt almost like an acted out documentary, retelling as close to what actually happened as possible, which made the story more compelling. It spoke to me about the way kids see gangster movies and try some illegal drugs and all of a sudden they think they can handle the real life consequences of their actions. The truth is reality will catch up with you every time.

The acting was very good as each kid seemed to embody the spirit of a late 90s youth in a convincing way. If I had to criticize any part of the movie, I would say that they could have spent more time on the family dynamics and less on the party dynamics. The family scenes were some of the most dramatic and interesting in my opinion.

Overall this is a good movie for teens to check out because there are some lessons to be learned in this film. I would suggest anyone who is a fan of true story crime dramas would enjoy it.

Cast trivia

  • Anton Yelchin (who plays Zack Mazursky) voices the character of Jim Lake Jr. in the series Trollhunters for 2 seasons. Following his death, Emile Hirsch (who plays Johnny Truelove) voiced the same character for season 3.
  • Chris Marquette, Emile Hirsch and Olivia Wilde all appear together in The Girl Next Door.
  • Director Nick Cassavetes and actress Dominique Swain appeared together in Face/Off.
  • Amanda Seyfried, Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde and Vincent Kartheiser also appear together in In Time.
  • Sharon Stone and Olivia Wilde share a birthday - March 10th.
  • This is the first of two films starring both Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster. They would later star together in Lone Survivor. Ironically, they play enemies in this movie and close friends in Lone Survivor.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio was considered for the lead role.
  • Bruce Willis and Ben Foster previously worked together on Hostage.

Production trivia

  • Alpha Dog made 6.4 million opening weekend and made 32.3 million worldwide.
  • Alpha Dog premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2006.
  • This film was released on January 12, 2007 and was distributed by Universal Pictures.
  • This film was shot all over California.
  • To prepare for his role in the movie, Ben Foster asked one of his friends who was an ex-meth addict for guidance. The friend introduced him to a group of people who gave Foster an all-access pass into the lifestyle.
  • The film begins with actual home video footage of some of the cast members when they were children.


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