Picks and Pans Review: Alpha Dog

updated 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

Emile Hirsch, Justin Timberlake, Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Ben Foster


What does a father (Willis) in Alpha Dog have to say about the horrifying crime his son has committed? "This whole thing is about parenting." That statement sums up just how clueless the parents in this engrossing film are about the trouble their offspring are in. Even more disturbing, some make things worse. Based on an actual murder case, Dog follows a posse of aimless Southern California youths (including Timberlake and Shawn Hatosy), led by a pipsqueak drug dealer (Hirsch), who kidnap a 15-year-old boy in an ill-conceived attempt at revenge. The half-hearted snatching—they let the kid party with them in Palm Springs—ends in tragedy. Director-writer Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook) strives too hard for meaning, but the performances are impressive and the characters compelling. (R)

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