Alpha Dog (2006)

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Released 15-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Making Of-A Cautionary Tale
Notes-Witness Statements
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 112:24
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:15) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Nick Cassavetes
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Bruce Willis
Matthew Barry
Emile Hirsch
Fernando Vargas
Vincent Kartheiser
Justin Timberlake
Shawn Hatosy
Alex Solowitz
Alec Vigil
Harry Dean Stanton
Frank Cassavetes
Nicole Dubos
Regina Rice
Case ?
RPI ? Music Aaron Zigman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 EX (768Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Alpha Dog is based on the real life kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz by Jesse James Hollywood and his posse in suburban Los Angeles in 2000. The murder rocked middle-class California and became a tabloid sensation that lasted years, as Hollywood went on the lam to South America for several years only to be captured after a much publicised manhunt. Though the names and some of the locations in the film have been changed and the story has been Hollywood-ised to an extent, the story is presented in a very matter-of-fact manner. The film pretty much stays as close as it legally could to the true story thanks to director Nick Cassavetes having fully cooperation from Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Ronald J. Zonen and access to all kinds of documents sensitive to the case. In fact, Cassavettes had so much unfettered access that it wound up with Zonen being rather spectacularly removed from the case before its final trial in a significant legal appeal.

    20 year old Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), the film's approximation of Jesse James Hollywood, is living it up with his mates at his home in suburban LA when Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster, in a stand-out performance as a neo-nazi of Jewish descent) swings by to let Johnny know that a fairly trivial business deal had gone sour. Both feel the other owes them money and neither are willing to back down. What starts as a little angry chest-beating soon gets out of hand and the pair are soon breaking down walls as they try to kill one another. Cooled off by the party-goers, the pair bitterly go their separate ways.

    A few days later Mazursky and some of his boys break into Truelove's house in the middle of the night, trash the place and take his TV. Angry for revenge, Truelove has two of his mates kidnap Mazursky's 15 year old brother Zack (Anton Yelchin, who is soon to be seen as Chekov in the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot) when they see him walking down the street the next day. With no real plan, Truelove has his co-kidnapper Frankie (Justin Timberlake) look after the kid while he works out what to do. Zack proves to be a surprisingly willing participant in the plan and, rather than being bound and gagged, Zack winds up partying the days away with Frankie.

    While Zack parties away, his family (particularly his mother, Sharon Stone) are grief-stricken and he becomes the subject of a state-wide manhunt. Johnny's father Sonny (Bruce Willis) and his friend Cosmo (Harry Dean Stanton) aren't too happy when they get wind of what's going on, but it is too little too late by that time - Johnny has sent one of his thugs to "take care" of the problem.

    The film fizzed upon theatrical release in the USA, no doubt hurt by the significant delay in release date, and failed to gain a theatrical release in Australia as a result. It is a shame as the movie is well worth a look for anyone to whom the story sounds appealing, and the Region 1 DVD release (which has fared quite well) would back up that position. The acting is a little hit and miss, but the engaging story and generally good pacing make up for it. Interestingly, it isn't the obvious suspects who let the film down. After single-handedly ruining his screen debut Edison with his dreadful acting, Justin Timberlake turns in a decent performance in Alpha Dog - aided by both a more fitting role (although he might want to wear a shirt next time!) and some acting lessons. The only stand-out bad performance on show from the sizeable ensemble is that of Sharon Stone, whose absurd overacting spoils virtually every scene she is in. Thankfully most of those scenes are opposite Ben Foster, whose excellent performance is enough to take your mind away from his lesser co-stars.

    Alpha Dog probably isn't worth the risk of purchasing sight unseen, but it is well worth a look for anyone interested by the sound of the story or looking for a moderately edgy drama with small doses of action and comedy. JT fans won't be disappointed either (unless all his bad-boy tats put you off).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video quality is quite good, but far from outstanding.

    The image is sharp. A low level of film grain is occasionally noticeable, but never distracting. There is generally a reasonable level of detail in shadows, but some of the darker scenes are a little murky.

    The colour palette is a little over-saturated and on the orange side. This is particularly highlighted by the skin tones, which frequently seem a basted orange rather than tanned. The colours in many of the night time scenes in the latter part of the movie, in the 10-15 minutes form about the 90 minute mark, look rather unnatural - blacks coming out an awkward blue/grey.

    There are no noticeable MPEG compression related artefacts during the movie, nor any film artefacts.

    Plain white English subtitles are available. They appear accurate to the spoken word and well timed, based on the portion I sampled.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs between scenes at 67:15 and was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film features an English DTS (768 Kbps) track, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps) track and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track (224 Kbps). All three tracks sound quite good, although the DTS track is noticeably crisper than the other two.

    The dialogue is clearly audible and well synchronised on all three tracks, although it is a touch on the soft side on the Dolby Digital 5.1 track.

    The film features a rather innocuous hip-hop soundtrack. It suits the film well and is well mixed.

    The surrounds are put to moderate use of general environmental effects. This is fairly standard surround mix for a Hollywood drama. The subwoofer gets a reasonable level of use on the DTS track, virtually all from the music, but the Dolby Digital tracks were a little flat and hardly touched the sub.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

A Cautionary Tale Making Of Featurette (11:27)

    This is a fairly short cookie-cut electronic press kit featurette, filled with the usual "this actor really wanted the role" and "the director was so good to work with" guff. The one thing that makes it really worthwhile to watch is Sharon Stone's interviews. Stone gushes over how deep and meaningful the film is in such a way that you would think she's talking about Shakespeare - hilarious stuff, even if it is for all the wrong reasons.

Witness Statements

    This fairly novel feature presents brief text quotes from witnesses to the real-life kidnap and murder on which the film is based and links them through to the scene of the movie that illustrates those quotes. The content is fairly trivial, but this is a nifty feature.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This one is a winner for Region 4. The Region 1 and Region 4 editions of Alpha Dog are identical in terms of content, however the Region 4 edition includes an additional DTS Soundtrack to the feature.

    The initial Region 4 release of Alpha Dog is being packaged as a limited edition release with a bonus copy of the tie-in soundtrack CD.

    Alpha Dog is also available on Blu-ray in Australia and on dual format DVD/HD DVD in North America, featuring the same special features as the DVD release.

Summary

    Alpha Dog is an entertaining drama that retells one of the more sensational tabloid stories of the current decade; A tale of middle-class suburban youths mimicking gang life and everything getting out of hand.

    The disc comes with only a couple of trivial extras and features a reasonable video transfer and very good audio.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, November 12, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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