Alpha dog : plot synopsis
A drama based on the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer who became one of the youngest men ever to be on the FBI’s most wanted list.
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Writer: Nick Cassavetes
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake and Anton Yelchin
Alpha Dog is based on events that took place in 2000 and characters are given fictional names. The film is set in November 1999. It tells the story of Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch), a young drug dealer in Claremont, California and his circle of friends, which includes Frankie Ballenbacher (Justin Timberlake), Tiko “TKO” Martinez (Fernando Vargas) and Elvis Schmidt (Shawn Hatosy). The film demonstrates internal gang dynamics and social context that contribute to the events leading to kidnap and murder.
Johnny’s father, Sonny Truelove (Bruce Willis), supplies his son with marijuana, from which Johnny makes a fortune dealing and selling. Johnny owns his own house where he holds meetings and parties. Another associate of the gang is Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster), who owes Johnny a $1200 drug debt. After a failed attempt at asking for the money from his parents, Olivia (Sharon Stone), and Butch Mazursky, he goes over to Johnny’s house where Johnny is having a party. A heated argument is held between the two, which results in a violent fight that Frankie and the gang break up. Jake tells Johnny that he’ll never pay him the money. In retaliation, Johnny gets Jake fired from his job by ratting on him to his boss that Jake is on drugs. Later that night, Jake and his gang break into Johnny’s house, stealing his flat-screen t.v., breaking his backyard window and defecating on Johnny’s carpet. The next day, Johnny, Frankie, and Tiko decide to go to Jake personally and collect the money with the threat of violence. On the way, though, they stumble upon his brother Zack Mazursky (Anton Yelchin) and decide to kidnap him in broad daylight, throwing him into the van. Frankie is worried about the situation, while Johnny is thinking about what to do with him.
Zack makes little effort to escape. Frankie offers him beer and cigarettes, which he accepts. During a street fiesta, Frankie offers him a chance to escape, which Zack declines, not wanting to cause him trouble with Johnny. The two strike up an unlikely friendship. Zack stays at Frankie’s house for the night and even helps him with his chores. Zack meets some of Frankie’s friends, including Keith Stratton (Chris Marquette), a young pot head, and even strikes up a relationship with Julie (Amanda Seyfried), the youngest member of the group. They all learn of Zack’s kidnapping, yet do nothing as Zack seems cool with everything. Julie even refers to him as ‘Stolen Boy’, and thinks it’s hot. Johnny comes over and contemplates with Frankie on what to do. Frankie grows nervous when Johnny asks Frankie about the possibility of having Zack killed, though he quickly dismisses it.
Back at Zack’s home, Olivia and Butch do everything they can to find Zack. Olivia grows angry with Jake when she learns he owed money to Johnny. Missing Person posters are put up. Johnny becomes increasingly paranoid about the situation. He calls Jake with the intent of explaining the situation, but learns that Jake already suspects it was him who kidnapped Zack and screams that he’ll “rip his throat out and eat his heart”. Johnny hangs up and calls his lawyer and explains the situation, which his lawyer replies that Johnny is looking at 25 years to life in prison for his actions. High with anxiety, Johnny seems to have made up his mind.
The next night, while Frankie, Zack, and the gang are at a party at a hotel, Johnny approaches Elvis, who is in deep debt with Johnny, and offers to cancel the debt if he agrees to have Zack murdered. Elvis is skeptical at first, but agrees. Johnny gives him a TEC-9 pistol and leaves with his girlfriend. Back at the party, Zack loses his virginity when he has sex with Julie and her girlfriend, Alma. Elvis arrives at the hotel and explains to Frankie that he is taking Zack home, at which point the party ends and everyone leaves except for Frankie, Zack, Elvis, and Keith. Frankie is relieved to have Zack go home until Elvis reveals Johnny’s plan to kill Zack. Frankie is enraged at Elvis, and angrily tells him he won’t let him do it. Elvis instead takes Keith and they go to a remote location in the hills to dig a grave. When they get back to the hotel, Elvis tells a disturbed Frankie that they are all looking at life in prison if Zack goes home. Frankie sadly agrees and he, Elvis, and Keith trick Zack into thinking he’s going home.
Back at Johnny’s house, his dad, Sonny, and their attorney confront him about the kidnapping. Sonny is furious with his son, and when he learns of Johnny’s plan to kill Zack, he commands that he call it off, which Johnny refuses, believing that Elvis and Frankie aren’t really going to kill Zack. Meanwhile, Frankie, Elvis, Zack and Keith arrive in the hills. They start walking up a hill. Zack is not aware of what’s going to happen and is tricked into believing someone’s picking him up. Zack grows little suspicious when a deeply saddened Keith silently tells Frankie he can’t go through with it, and, after giving Zack a goodbye hug, goes to wait in the van. Realizing what’s happening, a panicked Zack asks Frankie what he’s doing, Frankie reassures him and the three continue walking up the hill. Zack sees the grave and begins to break down, sobbing and begging Frankie and Elvis to let him go. Frankie contemplates to Elvis that they shouldn’t do it, but Elvis is keen on the job he’s been given. Frankie calms Zack down and tells him that he would never hurt him, and ties a weeping Zack up with tape. He is astonished when Elvis knocks Zack into the grave with the shovel and ultimately fires at Zack with the pistol killing him. Frankie and Elvis then silently leave.
Zack’s body is found 3 days later. The epilogue shows the aftermath of the crime. Zack’s mother, Olivia, is interviewed; she talks candidly about her failed suicide attempts and the loss that she has experienced from her son’s murder. After being convicted, the gang members serve time: Tiko serving 9 years for the kidnapping; Keith serving at a juvenile facility until the age of 25 for digging Zack’s grave and 2nd degree murder; Frankie serving a life sentence for the kidnapping; and Elvis on death row for murdering Zack. Johnny disappears and is finally arrested in Paraguay in 2005 after 5 years of being on the America’s Most Wanted list. However, the real Johnny was arrested in Saraquema, Brazil.