A tense and believable slice of gangland drama

Alpha Dog’s premise sounds familiar and none too promising; bunch of middle class white boy drug dealers get in over their heads with disastrous results. The difference is that it is based on real events (the Jesse James Hollywood case) and, more importantly, is actually rather good.

The action takes off with Emile Hirsch’s Johnny Truelove (the Hollywood character) kidnapping the young half-brother of a rival who owes him drug money. Before too long the innocent Zack (Anton Yelchin) is partying with Truelove and his boys and enjoying the playa’s dream of drink, drugs and girls. He develops a particular bond with Truelove’s right hand man Frankie (the surprisingly good Justin Timberlake). However, things begin to spiral out of control.

As a tense and believable slice of gangland drama Alpha Dog works very well. Despite some minor faults, the film is a welcome addition to a genre that contains too many movies that are as uninspired as they are badly executed. Happily, Alpha Dog is neither of these things.

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