Teenage dealer Johnny Truelove (Justin Timberlake) and his friends kidnap the impressionable younger brother (Christopher Marquette) of a junkie (Bruce Willis) who refuses to pay his drug debt. Things change unexpectedly when Frankie (Shawn Hatosy), one of Johnnys pals, befriends the youth.
Alpha Dog is a 2006 American crime drama film written and directed by Nick Cassavetes, first screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2006, with a wide release the following year on January 12, 2007. Starring Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Ben Foster, Shawn Hatosy, Anton Yelchin, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried with Harry Dean Stanton, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis, the film is based on the true story of the Murder of Nicholas Markowitz and related events in 2000. It portrays the involvement of Jesse James Hollywood, a young middle-class drug dealer in California.
Johnny Truelove likes to see himself as tough. He's the son of an underworld figure and a drug dealer. Johnny also likes to get tough when things don't go his way. When Jake Mazursky fails to pay up for Johnny, things get worse for the Mazursky family, as Johnny and his 'gang' kidnap Jake's 15 year old brother and holds him hostage. Problem now is what to do with 'stolen boy?'
Johnny Truelove is a young marijuana dealer in Southern California. His father, Sonny, supplies him with marijuana, which Johnny distributes to his gang of friends, including Jake Mazursky, who owes Johnny a $1,200 drug debt. Mazursky makes a failed attempt at asking his stepmother, Olivia, and his biological father, Butch, for the money. Meanwhile, Olivia and Butch are dealing with their rebellious teenage son Zack - Jakes half-brother - who admires his older brother. A fight breaks out between Jake and Johnny when Jake tries to pay Johnny only part of his debt. After back and forth retaliation, Johnny and his two henchmen, Frankie Ballenbacher and Tiko "TKO" Martinez go to confront Jake in person. When they go to his house he is nowhere to be found, but as they leave they find Zack walking on the sidewalk. They kidnap Zack with the intent of holding onto him until Jake pays his debt.
Wanting a break from his home life, Zack makes little effort to escape. Johnny, meanwhile, pawns Zack off on Frankie, who offers him a chance to escape, but Zack declines the offer, not wanting to cause any trouble for his brother. The two strike up an unlikely friendship, and Zack stays with Frankie at his fathers house, where he ingratiates himself with Frankies friends, including Keith Stratten and Julie, the youngest member of the group. A number of hangers-on and friends of the gang learn of Zacks kidnapping, though Susan is the only one who seems concerned about it.
Frankie grows nervous when Johnny hypothetically offers Frankie $2,500 to murder Zack. Frankie furiously declines and Johnny claims it was a joke. Instead, Johnny agrees to Frankies plan to pay Zack to keep his mouth shut. However, after a conversation with his lawyer and a threatening phone call from Jake, Johnny decides the risk of ending up in prison or getting killed is too great to let Zack go. Johnny calls Elvis Schmidt and offers to erase his drug debt if he kills Zack. Meanwhile, at a raucous going-away party, Zack demonstrates his martial arts skills on Frankie, who realizes he could have easily escaped at any time. Frankie and his friends still believe Zack will be returning home at the end of the night. Zack has a good time at the party, and later goes skinny-dipping with Julie and her friend Alma in the pool, leading to the three hooking up. Afterwards, Julie gives Zack her number and Alma gives him a good-bye kiss on the cheek.
Elvis arrives at the hotel where Zack is waiting to be picked up and struggles with Frankie, who initially refuses to help, but Elvis convinces him that the consequences they may face by letting Zack go home are far too great. Elvis takes Keith to dig a grave while Frankie offers Zack a final opportunity to escape. Believing he is part of the group and will be returning home soon, Zack prefers to wait at the hotel for Elvis to return. Meanwhile, Sonny, Cosmo (Johnnys godfather), and Johnnys lawyer confront Johnny, who refuses to call off the hit. Frankie, Elvis, Zack, and Keith arrive at the grave site. Zack is not aware of whats going on and grows suspicious when a deeply saddened Keith silently tells Frankie he cant go through with it, and, after giving Zack a goodbye hug, he goes to wait in the car. Zack sees the grave and begins to break down, begging Frankie and Elvis to let him go. Frankie tells Elvis that they shouldnt do it, but Elvis is keen on the job hes been given. Realizing that theres no turning back now, Frankie calms Zack down, and ties him up with duct tape. He is surprised when Elvis violently knocks Zack into the grave with the shovel and then guns him down. Frankie and Elvis silently leave.
Zacks body is found three days later. The epilogue shows the aftermath of the crime: Olivia, now suffering from obesity and depression, is interviewed, and talks candidly about her failed suicide attempts and the loss that she has experienced from her sons murder. Susan confronts Frankie over Zacks death and goes to the authorities. Elvis is caught while trying to secure a ride out of L.A. Johnny flees the city and arrives at the house of old classmate Buzz Fecske, who drives him back to his godfather Cosmos house, where he enters and is not seen again.
TKO, Frankie, and Keith are arrested. After being convicted, they all serve their respective sentences: TKO serving nine years for the kidnapping; Keith at a juvenile facility until the age of 25 for digging Zacks grave and second-degree murder; Frankie serving a seven years to life for special circumstances of aggravated kidnapping. Elvis is put on death row for kidnapping and murdering Zack. Johnny, however, is nowhere to be found. The interviewer asks Sonny how Johnny was able to escape authorities for four years without help, but Sonny assures him that he doesnt know where Johnny is. In 2005, after over five years of being on the Americas most wanted list, Johnny is finally found and arrested in Paraguay. Text informs the audience that Johnny is in California awaiting trial, and, if proven guilty, faces the death penalty.
During filming, Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Ronald J. Zonen provided copies of many documents on the case and served as an unpaid consultant to the film, citing his desire to have Hollywood captured. Zonen prosecuted Hollywood’s co-defendants and was poised to prosecute Hollywood. After Hollywood was captured in Saquarema, Brazil and subsequently returned to the United States, his defense lawyer claimed there was a conflict of interest, and the California Court of Appeal for the Second District ruled on October 5, 2006 that, based on Zonens disclosure of the files and consultant service—he should be recused from further involvement in prosecuting Hollywood. On December 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court granted review on the case effectively staying the order to recuse Zonen. On May 12, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that Zonen should not be recused. Nonetheless, Zonen was replaced as lead prosecution attorney by Deputy Dist. Atty. Joshua Lynn.
In addition, Hollywoods attorney James Blatt tried to block the release of the film.
After the delay, Hollywoods trial started May 15, 2009 with the defenses opening statements saying Hollywood was not involved with the murder. In his opening statement, Lynn described Hollywood as "a ruthless coward." On July 8, 2009 he was convicted of kidnapping and first-degree murder with special circumstances for which he can face the death penalty.
During its opening weekend, Alpha Dog grossed $6,412,775 and was #7 at the box office. The film closed on February 22, 2007 after grossing $15,309,602 domestically, and totaled $32,145,115 worldwide over its six-week release.
The film received mixed reviews; out of 143 critics, 55% of them were positive with the consensus being, "a glossy yet unflinching portrait of violent, hedonistic teenagers. Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone chew the scenery, while Justin Timberlake gives a noteworthy performance."
Yelchin was praised as "able to bring all of the conflicting emotions of Zack," and conveying all of it beautifully.
Susan Markowitz attempted suicide three times. Jeff Markowitz elaborated, "She is so tortured by what happened that she has tried to take her own life. The last thing that either of us want is to see this picture. How would any loving parent feel about a Hollywood movie that glamorizes their sons death and allows celebrities to cash in on a brutal, evil murder?" Nonetheless, Susan attended the films release and reportedly was moved by Anton Yelchins portrayal of Zack (Nick). After the screening, she embraced Sharon Stone, who played Olivia (Susan).Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 2007
2nd place BSFC Award-Best Supporting ActorBen Foster
For 3:10 to YumaMTV Movie Awards 2007
Nominated MTV Movie Award-Breakthrough PerformanceJustin Timberlake
Teen Choice Awards 2007
Nominated Teen Choice Award-Choice Movie: Breakout MaleJustin Timberlake
For Black Snake MoanYoung Hollywood Awards 2006
WonYoung Hollywood Award Breakthrough Performance - Male
Alpha Dog was released on DVD on May 1, 2007. It includes a DVD/HD DVD combo package where both forms are included in one box. DVD sales gathered $12,324,535 in revenue from 743,036 units sold. It was released on the Blu-ray format on July 13, 2010.
A soundtrack was released by Milan Records on January 9, 2007.