and murder of a 15-year-old West Hills, Calif., boy, the movie doesn't shy away from exploiting the sex and drugs quotient that comes with a tale of spoiled rich kids in Southern California. Even so, director Nick Cassavetes ("The Notebook") knows how to spin a yarn, and "Alpha Dog" turns out to have as much bite as bark.
Dope dealer Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) blows a fuse when an associate, Jake (Ben Foster), fails to pay up on a $1,200 debt. In turn, Johnny and his posse kidnap Jake's easygoing kid brother (Anton Yelchin). The incident spirals out of control for a bunch of not-so-bright thugs who fancy themselves more streetwise than they are.
Cassavetes employs an interesting, quasi-documentary approach that is buoyed by a talented young cast. A surprising standout is Justin Timberlake as Frankie, Johnny's underling, given the task of watching their affable hostage. The guy shows serious acting chops.