By Heather Leszczewicz Special to Published Jan 15, 2007 at 5:25 AM

Nick Cassavetes is known for both the insanely romantic "The Notebook" and the sad thriller "John Q." Now he's got a gritty crime drama with some of Hollywood's most promising actors as its stars in "Alpha Dog."

Sex, drugs and a dangerous lifestyle, that's what a group of teenagers in West Hollywood are all about. They smoke marijuana, throw loud parties and have the time of their lives. They're young, carefree and think they have nothing to lose, when, in reality, they are setting themselves up to lose everything.

Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster) owes Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) money and it's best if you don't owe Johnny money. To get his cash, possibly push Jake into paying faster, Johnny and his band of merry stoners and slackers snatch Jake's younger brother Zack (Anton Yelchin).

Plans are not foolproof, especially when made when severely stoned. Zack becomes more of a friend than a hostage, creating a special bond with Frankie (Justin Timberlake). At 15, Zack gets a chance to live out from underneath his mother's (Sharon Stone) thumb. Although given the chance to hightail it back to home, he refuses to for the sake of his brother.

But kidnapping has its consequences, as Johnny finds out from a lawyer. The guys are up for 25 years to life in jail for something that doesn't even seem like a real crime as a whole, plus the group is racking up witnesses by the dozen. Johnny feels like he only has one choice: Kill the kid.

It's hard to believe a story like this is actually based on truth, but it is. "Alpha Dog" is the story of Jesse James Hollywood, the summer of 2000 and a crime that rocked a community with a bit of a Hollywood spin.

However, the heart of this story happens to be the lack of parental involvement in these teens' lives. We're privy to some of these parents' lives and their children happen to be almost mirror images. They're only worried about their own lives, ignoring the faults of their children because there faults also happen to be drugs, sex and self-involvement.

To write off this film because of the fact that Timberlake stars would be horribly wrong. Frankly, he runs away with the film. He's the only character that gets to show a range of a emotions and grow. There's no doubt that he's a good actor. Anyone who's watched "Saturday Night Live" knows that he can do comedy. A little known movie -- "Edison Force" -- that also starred Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey proved that he could do serious acting. "Alpha Dog" is only his first movie to make it to the big screen and not go straight to DVD.

Also making quite an impact on "Alpha Dog" is chameleon extraordinaire Foster. He's able to make such a transition from film to film, a psychotic killer in "Hostage" to a winged mutant in "X-Men: The Last Stand," now he's got a shaved head and strung out. He's funny, pitiful and scary at the same time.

One of the most interesting parts of the movie is the split screen form of cinematography. Cassavetes gives two views of the same situation through out the movie. There are a few introspective moments that happen a few years in the future that are filmed from different angles that shed light on other emotions. At times one view of a scene is enough to get a point across, while the second just makes it heartbreaking, especially Stone's scenes toward the end of the movie.

"Alpha Dog" can't be considered a great movie; it could have been with a few chunks cut out here and there. Within the first few moments of the film, audiences are well aware of the fact that these teens are stoners, therefore some scenes tend to drag on and are superfluous as everyone grabs the nearest bong and loosens up.

Heather Leszczewicz Special to

Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.

However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.

Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson. 

Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.