“You ever have that dream: the one where you did something...
You don’t know why, but you can never go back?”
Versatile filmmaker NICK CASSAVETES (The Notebook, John Q) directs an impressive group of both young and veteran performers in Alpha Dog—inspired by actual events—a film that follows three fateful days when the lives of a group of Southern California teens suddenly dead-ended.
In Alpha Dog, Cocky and headstrong Johnny Truelove (EMILE HIRSCH) is living the thug wannabe’s American dream as a mid-level drug dealer in a comfortable sector of the sprawling, privileged neighborhoods in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley. For Johnny and his crew of bros, wannabes and suck-ups—landlocked in their suburban existence and burdened with too much time—their existence is a heady blur of partying and looking for the next thrill. The model of the good life they imitate comes to them from rap music, video games and movies, and they spend their conscious hours copying the thug existence they idolize. Johnny has a wad of cash, a beautiful girl on each arm, a thriving business and plenty of weed to keep all his friends stoned.
Young, flush with money and at the center of their self-created universe—life for Johnny and his friends doesn’t come with any consequences. Anything can happen. And over the course of three days under the hot California sun, something does.
Now, Cassavetes provides a startling and all-too-real look at contemporary youth culture with Alpha Dog, which tracks 72 hours in the lives of a group of Southern California teens—three days when everything suddenly spins out of control. The film features a powerful ensemble cast that includes BEN FOSTER (X-Men: The Last Stand, Phone Booth), SHAWN HATOSY (Little Athens, The Cooler), Emile Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys), CHRISTOPHER MARQUETTE (Best Friends, American Gun), SHARON STONE (Bobby, Casino), JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE (Edison, upcoming Shrek the Third), ANTON YELCHIN (upcoming Charlie Bartlett, television’s Huff) and BRUCE WILLIS (16 Blocks, Sin City).
When raging hothead Jake (Foster) fails to come up with deal money he owes Truelove, the situation escalates into a battle for dominance that culminates with Johnny and his gang impulsively kidnapping Jake’s little brother, Zack (Yelchin). En route to Palm Springs, the group decides to keep the kid as a marker and slowly begins including him in their schedule, alternating between parties and slack time. With no parents in sight, they grow used to having him around. Under the temporary care of Johnny’s charismatic friend Frankie (Timberlake), Zack now enjoys an illicit summer fantasy of drinking, girls and new experiences.
Out in the desert, everyone soon begins to lose sight that Zack is a hostage, a “stolen boy,” and he can’t just be simply returned. As the hours turn into days, solutions to the Zack problem begin to dwindle. Bad decisions are followed by worse ones. Johnny’s dad (Willis) attempts to track down his son and convince him to return the hostage. With police called in by the boy’s distraught mother (Stone), the situation grows even more complex, and Johnny finds himself out of his league with no idea how to fix it. For Johnny, the line between playing a thug and becoming one soon blurs, and very real, very adult and very dire consequences result for everyone involved.