Alpha Dog (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

About the only thing I knew about “Alpha Dog” was that it had Justin Timberlake in it. It wasn’t until I sat down and watched it that I realized it was based off a true story. Sure, the names have been changed (like “Jessie James Hollywood” is now “Johnny Truelove”) but the story, as they say, remains the same. I have to admit that I’ve never really been a fan of hip hop music or anything that Timberlake has been associated with, but there’s something about the guy that does make you want to stand up and listen. That and I think that he’s finally shrugging off that “wardrobe malfunction” from the Super Bowl a few years back. This isn’t all Timberlake’s movie though; it’s got a pretty good supporting cast with Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone in some cameos. That’s “Alpha Dog” on the surface, let’s delve a bit deeper shall we?

“Alpha Dog” takes place in the past, the year 1999 to be exact. We meet the cast of characters as they’re living it up. Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) is the sometimes questioned leader of his crew as a small time drug dealer near Palm Springs, California. Johnny has faithful and dedicated help and usually gets business done one way or the other. On this particular occasion, Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) comes up short on cash while trying to pay Johnny. The two have it out and as fate would have it, Jake’s kid brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin) is kidnapped by Johnny and a few others. The plan is relatively simple, hold Zach hostage while Jake comes up with the rest of his money and then he’s returned. What happens is a snowball effect that has Johnny and his crew running for cover. Knowing that they’re facing life in prison for kidnapping, they must make a dire decision to save their own hides or do the right thing and send Zach back to his family. Ironically, Zack doesn’t resent his captors, in fact he has a pretty good time partying it up and even having a little time alone with two (yes, two) girls in a swimming pool.

As I mentioned above, the happenings of this movie were a much publicized event several years back and my thoughts must have been elsewhere as this was all news to me. The real “Johnny Truelove”, Jessie James Hollywood, has openly campaigned against this movie (from prison) but we see what good that did. The characters aren’t totally immoral like those of some other films; they’re just kids who don’t know the right thing to do. The main characters spend their time in this film either drunk and/or high on marijuana and the only beer that’s consumed is Heineken so either that’s all they drank or Heineken got some very good product placement. “Alpha Dog” didn’t really light up the box office earlier this year, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by it. Give it a shot. No pun intended.

Video: How does it look?

“Alpha Dog” is the latest movie to be given the HD treatment by Universal and as with most of their day and date releases, it’s an HD DVD/DVD combo disc meaning that the HD version is on one side and the standard DVD the other. I still have no idea why they do this, but I have no control over such matters, so why worry about it? The MPEG-4 VC-1 HD transfer is a bit hit and miss. While colors are bold and bright, I found some of the scenes to have a bit of a compression problem. To net it out, I saw some “jaggies” in a few of the scenes. Granted, we’ve become used to this with some DVD’s but I think this is the first time I’ve noticed them on a HD format. Detail is very accurate, images look razor sharp in most every scene. The nighttime scenes seem a bit challenged, but I didn’t see any artifacting, they just had an off kind of look. On the whole, the HD version of “Alpha Dog” looks better that it’s DVD counterpart, of course, but when compared to other HD DVD’s it does come up a bit short.

Audio: How does it sound?

Universal gave this movie the full treatment giving us a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack for pure lossless sound. There are a few times when the soundtrack really shines, usually with loud dance music booming from all channels. Dialogue is rich and natural and directional effects give the movie an added ambiance. Compare this with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack found on the standard DVD side and you’ll really be able to tell a difference. “Alpha Dog” isn’t the most aggressive soundtrack I’ve heard and I’ve certainly heard better Dolby TrueHD tracks, but this one isn’t that bad.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Universal has given us it’s “U Control” which actually causes more problems than it solves, but if you can get it to work, it’s fairly interesting. However, the only real bonus of this “U Control” is a fairly static witness timeline. Throughout the films, different background characters and main players are identified by a witness number and with this feature turned on, we get some static quotes of what they saw and where. And that’s it. No commentary or anything else.

Disc Scores