The Best 2000s Gritty True Crime Thriller On Streaming Features Career-High Performances 

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Published

alpha dog

For all his faults, Justin Timberlake is not a terrible actor. Indeed, if you haven’t seen Alpha Dog, you’ll have to watch it just to be amazed at his performance as a ruthless kidnapping thug alongside Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and Amanda Seyfried, who also deliver excellent turns in this true and tragic story.

Worth The Difficult Watch

I don’t know what made me watch Alpha Dog, and I can tell you I don’t know if I’d watch it again because it’s so heartbreaking. But I am glad I was able to stomach it the first time because now, looking back, I can see how brilliant the performances by all the stars involved were. Aside from Ben Foster, who had already made a solid name for himself as the creepy bad guy in films, Justin Timberlake was relatively untested as an actor, and Amanda Seyfried, Anton Yelchin, and Emile Hirsch were still virtually unknown in Hollywood. This movie changed all that.

The Story

alpha dog

Alpha Dog tells the true story of a young boy, Zack Mazursky (Yelchin), who finds himself caught up in his big brother’s drug addled crime world. Jake Mazursky (Foster) is a drug addict indebted to a local drug dealer, Johnny Truelove (Hirsch).

He owes Johnny money, and when Johnny shows up at Jake’s house to insist on payment, he finds Zack instead. He and his crew, Frankie (Timberlake) and Tiki (Fernando Vargas) impulsively decide to kidnap 15-year old Zack in order to make Jake pay.

The problem the alpha dog does not realize is that Jake doesn’t have the money to pay. The situation escalates as Johnny finds himself pressed to take action.

His father and drug supplier, Sonny Truelove, played beautifully by Bruce Willis, creates a large shadow for Johnny to live under, and he feels he must perform as the true alpha. Meanwhile, Zack is left with Frankie, who finds himself endeared to Zack, offering him the chance to escape. 

Things Get More Complicated

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Zack, however, doesn’t realize the escalating tensions taking place in the background with the alpha dog and simply doesn’t want to go home.

He also doesn’t want to get his big brother in trouble, whom he looks up to. So, he sticks around and parties with Frankie and his friends, having a great time and refusing once again to escape. 

Sonny discovers what is happening and insists his son stop playing alpha dog and give the kid back, which Johnny agrees to until he has a phone call with Jake, which turns ugly.

At that point, Johnny tells one of his henchmen, Elvis, who also owes him money, that his debt will be forgiven if he kills Zack. Elvis, under extreme pressure to resolve his debt, agrees. 

Everything Goes Wrong

And everything in Alpha Dog goes sideways from there. The movie is dramatized, of course, because we can’t possibly know how exactly everything played out in real life, but we do have several eye witness accounts and an astute writer and director in Nick Cassavetes to bring as much of this story to life as possible.

Critics gave the film middling reviews, and I think that’s probably because the material was still so fresh, and it’s a hard storyline to watch play out. 

Stream It Now

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Though no one denies the power of the performances by everyone involved. It’s a tragedy that Alpha Dog is based on a true story. It’s just awful, and you can understand why some people didn’t want it to become a film. But it’s here, and you can stream it on Amazon Prime with premium subscriptions. I’d say everyone should watch it once to see the capacity for incredible acting and the atrocities humans are capable of.