There’s a key sequence in Alpha Dog where privileged valley kids party, getting drunk, watching a violent rap video on the TV. The latter is what they see themselves as, oblivious to their own surroundings and lavish lifestyle. They see rebellion in selling pot, or doing petty, obnoxious crimes. Turns out, the entire group is clueless.

Alpha Dog’s narrow culture becomes a social commentary – based on fact – on misplaced outrage. This story slyly plays on race, where the common myths of inner cities fall apart, because in reality, these suburban teens believe their own arrogance as success. This isn’t gang land violence, but preppy white kids who convince themselves they’re better, smarter, and richer, but still like the lifestyles seen and heard in their entertainment.

Alpha Dog’s narrow culture becomes a social commentary

Over money squabbles, the crew kidnap Zack (Anton Yelchin) for ransom. Naive, Zack wants see himself as cool. Instead of graphic music videos, he watches Austin Powers. It’s teenage angst, coming together in a bizarre plot that sees Zack relating to his kidnappers because they let him drink and smoke; he can’t understand his value. He spends most of his captivity smiling, playing videogames, or hanging out.

Bruce Willis opens the movie, speaking about parenting and how methods fail their kin. That’s Zack, to an extent, raised on a metaphorical leash as to avoid what happened to his addict brother. Naturally, that only pushes Zack away as he seeks freedom. That’s Alpha Dog’s tragedy. He falls into everything his parents protected him from.

No one in this movie makes smart choices. Not the parents, not the kids, or even authorities, who can’t sort this scheme out. The neighborhoods look perfect, yet harbor endless rage under the surface. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) views himself as the title character, the hard-edged male who bends other men to his will, and finds women who act on command. He’s celebrated, and no wonder – he supplied the booze and drugs to 18-somethings. How easy it is for him, yet Johnny never realizes the difference between himself and the rappers on TV. Ultimately, that’s more dangerous than any gang.


Mill Creek reissues Universal’s master which luckily came from a reasonably new, untouched scan. A strong, natural grain maintains its presence, suffering from a slight loss due to compression. Impact is low though (even when banding appears) and Alpha Dog keeps fine detail flowing. Facial texture excels, helped by a stable, high resolution.

Steady color nicely saturates flesh tones. Occasional drifts toward cooler palettes happen, but Alpha Dog generally stays warm, favoring a warmer glow. Primaries find moments to stick out, nothing grand, but appealing.

A strong contrast persists for the full runtime. Deep, potent black levels accentuate the depth and preserve shadow detail unless at the darkest nighttime shots. Likewise, highlights counter-balance, offering a stable energy to cinematography that favors darker scenery.


Most of Alpha Dogs energy comes from the music, blaring from car stereos and into the low-end. That’s where the range comes from, stretching both the bass and treble. Dialog stays in balance no matter the ambient sound.

Limited surround use and small stereo splits rarely utilize the soundstage. Much of the movie sits in the center, but again, except for the soundtrack. The later uses the stereos prominently.



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Alpha Dog
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An engaging story of privileged kids thinking they’re invincible, Alpha Dog is often brutal, but purposeful with a fantastic cast.

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