The Red Right Hand
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ALPHA DOG
One Crime. 3 Days. 38 Witnesses

Director
Nick Cassavetes
Starring
Emile Hirsch
Justin Timberlake
Ben Foster
Anton Yelchin

Nick Cassavetes, writer of Blow, director of The Notebook, is a man of talents, torn between situations; it's understandable that he would have chosen this project, in light of the similarities drawn between the lead character and himself. Zack [Telchin] is a sheltered young man who has the misfortune of an over-protective Mother (played by a rather underused Sharon Stone) and a psycho half-brother, Jake [Foster]. He works hard in school but feels like he wants to live a little and get away from his golden-boy image. Not dissimilar to Almost Famous, he gets exactly what he wants, for a while. Johnny Truelove [Hirsch] is a spoilt rich kid, living a rapper's dream; surrounded by friends, money, drugs and social power. Ultimately, he's a poser, he wants to be seen as a dangerous character but really, he's just a kid with a lot of money and little sense. Jake owes Johnny and on refusal to pay, Johnny pulls a gun. Jake openly threatens Johnny, saying he can see through his image. Insulted by this, Johnny takes measures to ensure Jake will pay, namely, kidnapping Zack.

Of the two centres in his crew, Frankie [Timberlake] and Elvis [Shaun Hatosy], the experienced actor takes a back seat to the up-and-coming singer-turned-actor, Justin Timberlake - despite the ridiculous line, "Go have a fucking period." Frankie is given the responsibility of being Zack's carer and introduces him to a world that he's always seen from a distance but never experienced. He enjoys sampling drugs, beer and flirting with girls but Johnny has no desire to tutor or welcome the young man. Meanwhile, the police are searching for the missing boy and Jake has a fair idea of who is responsible. The bond between Frankie and Zack (and to an extent, Keith [Chris Marquette]) is one that makes the film worth watching, showing a tender side to someone who, at heart, is nothing more than a thug and giving the boy who looks up to his meth-head brother another role-model - another poor decision, granted. As things get serious, Johnny realises that the reality of jail time is becoming more apparent and the only way to avoid this is to remove himself from the case and dispose of the only person who can testify; Zack.

It's a very bold feature with a not-so original story (despite being chased on true events) that's well directed and, for the most part, pretty well acted. The cold dramatic tones that underlie this feature are well produced but the whole effort feels a little light. Cassavetes has no intention of creating a piece that builds suspense and questions Will he? Won't he? with a sense of flippancy, instead he opts for a character study that analyses the stupidity and ego of the criminal mind, illustrating that despite what Hollywood and MTV tells you, the gangsta life is not to be envied. I especially liked the depiction of South California, similar to that of Harsh Times, a barren wasteland, littered with crappy box houses and chain link fences. The lack of finger-pointing (no one is really blamed for the way the kids are) isn't one that's necessarily missed but you have to wonder what Cassavetes is trying to say, if anything. From the way the film is presented, you would think that neglectful parents are the key factor but a solution is never really presented or suggested. The main problem is the false portrayal of this lifestyle by someone whose only contact with it has been through rap videos and other films. Adding to the mismatched director is the aimless plot that drifts and glides through 122 minutes of very little substance; you would be better off watching Brick.

Release Date:
20th April 2007

The Scene To Look Out For:
The final fifteen minutes were completely unnecessary, in my opinion and the film should have closed on the heart-felt interview delivered by Stone, rather than drawing out as much as it could.

Notable Characters:
The inclusion of Bruce Willis as Johnny's Father builds a certain sense of name power and adds to the credibility of both script and performance. Plus, it's Bruce Willis.

Highlighted Quote:
"My son was murdered over $1200"

In A Few Words:
"Less resembles Blow and edges more toward John Q; this is an average tale of kids on the wrong side of the law, doing stupid things, with too many flaws to be greatly enjoyed, saved only by promising performances"

Total Score:
5/10


Matthew Stogdon