Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A dog

The appearance of Harry Dean Stanton in Alpha Dog is its most surreal moment. He has a scene in the first third in which he rasps some rutting-goat pussy talk to the Johnny Truelove character on a baseball field that warms Bruce Willis' smirk into a smile faster than receiving his first cut of the percentages for Live Free Or Die Hard. Nick Cassavetes is such an inept director that not once does he realize that Stanton's casual rancidness is more endearing and menacing than the Less Than Zero-inspired Natty Ice chugging of his young cast (who all look like they're having a ball, as well they should). That goes double for casting is-it-really Alan Thicke as a horrified parent; jeez, even Richard Kelly had fun with Patrick Swayze in Donnie Darko. Too busy directing actors to revel in Larry Clark-inspired youth porn, he fails to reconcile his exploitation tendencies with his moralistic ones -- Cassavetes betrays his similarities with Justin Timberlake's Frankie, Alpha Dog's closest thing to a moral conundrum. The profanity isn't even convincingly profane. For fans of Swimfan pool sex, though, Cassavetes films a surprisingly restrained threesome which actually got my juices flowing thanks to Anton Yelchin, who as the victim hits all the right notes as a kid comfortable slipping between hedonism and naivete when it suits him.

As for Justin, he earns most of the plaudits heaped on him at the beginning of the year. Bravado becomes a form of sweetness; and he moves on camera with a self-mocking grace, a star who understands how dorkiness makes him more attractive.

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