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Sonny Truelove: You wanna know what this is all about? You can say it's about drugs or guns or disaffected youth, or whatever you like. But this whole thing is about parenting. It's about taking care of your children. You take care of yours, I take care of mine.


Alpha Dog is a 2006 crime drama based on the true story of Jesse James Hollywood.

It stars Emile Hirsch as Johnny Truelove, an impulsive and cocky Psychopathic Manchild marijuana dealer in Southern California in the late 1990s. Johnny, alongside best bud Frankie Ballenbacher (Justin Timberlake), suckup Elvis (Shawn Hatosy), and a host of other tagalongs, friends, and business associates, spends his day-to-day life partying, getting high, and generally living the hip-hop thug life he idealizes from music, movies, and video games, much to the dismay of Johnny's father, Sonny (Bruce Willis). Where Johnny goes, the money, the friends, and the girls follow.

But when a drug deal goes awry, a friendly meeting in Johnny's flat between him and Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) turns into a violent dispute. Jake owes Johnny $1,200, but Jake won't pay; in response, Johnny and his friends impulsively kidnap Jake's 15-year-old brother Zach (Anton Yelchin).

Unfortunately, if there's one thing Johnny really does poorly, it's long-term planning. We see a three-day account of the events that follow as Johnny and Frankie desperately attempt to find a way to resolve the situation peacefully. As it stands, all of them are looking at life in prison. But no one knows what to do with the kid, who seems oblivious to the seriousness of the situation in which he now finds himself.

As their lives crumble, Johnny and Frankie realize that every choice has a consequence...

Tropes used in Alpha Dog include:

  • Adorkable: Zach. Doesn't hurt that he's such a contrast to the rest of the tough, tattooed guys in the movie either.
  • Affably Evil: Pretty much all the gangsters which is why Zach didn't want to leave. It just make the ending more shocking.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: This movie is pretty much the definition.
  • Berserk Button: Making fun of Johnny's height is a very good way to drastically reduce your life expectancy.
  • Butt Monkey: Elvis
  • Chekhov's Skill: Averted. Zach's Tae Kwon Do skills are displayed in a throwaway scene yet they have no practical application as Zach is led to his death
  • Cluster F-Bomb: This film has one of the highest uses of the word "Fuck" at a staggering four hundred and eleven.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: An extreme aversion. Right from the start it's clear that these are a bunch of loser assholes that only an idiot would want to emulate.
  • Dawson Casting: Averted. Zach is fifteen and Anton Yelchin was seventeen at the time.
  • Downer Ending
  • Drugs Are Bad: This movie did a pretty good job of hammering the point home.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Frankie, Elvis and Keith genuinely like Zach and are horrified at Johnny's utter heartlessness (not that it stops them from doing the deed anyway).
  • Face Death with Dignity: Averted. Zach breaks down crying and desperately pleads and begs as they put the tape over his mouth all while Frankie and Keith are in tears.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Johnny likes to make himself out to be a tough resourceful leader but is in fact cowardly, short tempered and deeply stupid, rarely thinking of the consequences of his actions.
  • Freudian Excuse: The film shows the parents being every bit as indulgent and hedonistic as their children or at the very least unconcerned about the lifestyle they embrace. Sonny, for instance, pretty much raised Johnny to be a dealer and yet takes no responsibility for his part in the crimes committed. Zach's parents in contrast are overprotective and rule every part of his life, pushing him towards the other end. In fact, there don't seem to be any good parental figures.
  • He Really Can Act: Timberlake, who received most of the positive reviews for the movie.
  • Hypocritical Humour: The guys don't like gangsta rappers and joke when seeing a video "The only thing these guys are shooting is music videos".
  • Idiot Ball: Arguably the entire point of the movie. These guys come up with a pretty stupid idea and execute it in perhaps the dumbest way imaginable. To say "they brought this on themselves" hardly begins to cover it.
  • Jerkass: Where to start? Johnny Truelove, while not an entirely bad guy, is thoroughly unlikeable.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted. Johnny looks like he has escaped capture for his crimes until an epilogue informs us that he was captured and faces the death penalty.
  • Mood Whiplash: Zach is having the time of his life up until it comes time for Johnny and Frankie to do something about him...
  • My Beloved Smother: Part of the reason Zach doesn't take the obvious opportunities for escape is the freedom he feels at finally being away from his overprotective mother.
  • Narm: In-universe. One of the girls has enough foresight to see how thoroughly messed up the whole situation is and is furiously trying to get people to listen but her increasingly emotional speech patterns and voice only provoke laughter.
    • There is also a scene when one of Johnny asks why Zach isn't still tied up and a man responds "He couldn't breathe" in an incredibly deep breathing voice. The characters find his delivery hilarious.
  • Nice Guy: Zack, despite embracing the lifestyle, cares very much for his friends and is more than willing to accept blame for other people's mistakes. Frankie is something of an example as his behaviour seems mostly influenced by those around him. He is a dick around Johnny but much nicer around others.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Jake and Johnny. And then Jake beats the shit out of an entire party's worth of people.
  • Only Sane Woman: When Susan learns that Zach has been kidnapped, she immediately begins panicking and trying to make everyone understand how serious it is. Everyone else, including Zach, look at her like she's crazy, and go one hanging out like nothing's happened.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Johnny Truelove.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: And an extra scene was filmed and added to the end when Jesse James Hollywood was arrested in real life.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Johnny Truelove.
  • Stockholm Syndrome : Zach's response is a combination of this and not taking the situation seriously. He's beaten up, kidnapped, tied up and gagged. And yet he shows absolutely no ill will towards his captors. He ends up having a great time with them, and freely offers to claim he ran away to keep them from getting in trouble.
  • Tattooed Crook: Almost everyone sports a lot of ink but Frankie and Jake really stand out.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Pretty much every young person is at best an indifferent slacker and at worst a violent sociopath. Not that the adults are any better, mind You.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight:
  • Too Dumb to Live: At least as depicted in this movie, Zach taking his own kidnapping so lightly no doubt contributed to his death. Justified because he is, after all, still a kid who sees the lifestyle of Truelove's friends as exciting, not understanding the real gravity of the situation.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Oh God, yes it was...
  • Villainous Breakdown: Johnny has an offscreen one at the Mexican border and Elvis has one when he realizes how much shit he is in.
  • Where Are They Now? Epilogue: The legal consequences to the individual members of Truelove/Hollywood's crew as a result of the kidnapping and murder of Zach Mazursky/Nick Markowitz is shown at the end. Truelove himself was finally apprehended after eluding the authorities for five years.