deuces wild (2002) !


a movie review by Luc-Rock Paquin  
People are often surprised when I tell them that you need to watch a bad movie from time to time. "Why?", they ask. Because bad movies make us appreciate the average movies even more. Deuces Wild is a bit in between the two. It is bad enough to make you appreciate an average movie such as The Mexican, but not bad enough to make you enjoy Rollerball or Crossroads (those movies could make you appreciate just about any movie).
Deuces Wild tells the story of two rival Brooklyn gangs in 1958: the Deuces, headed by Leon (Dorff) and his younger brother Bobby (Renfro) and the Vipers, headed by Marco Vendetti (Reedus) and backup by wiseguy Fritzy Zennetti (Dillon). When Vendetti is released from prison for killing Bobby and Leon's big brother (a.k.a. "Alley Boy" or "Allie Boy"), the violence between the gangs escalates and relationships are tested.
I was very surprised to see how abruptly the movie started. While most American movies start by introducing us to the characters and/or the surroundings, director Scott Kalvert (The Basketball Diaries) opted to jump right into the story. The end result is nothing but confusion, since we don't really understand the significance of the event taking place (this event helps explain the rivalry between some of the characters later on). That scene would have been much more useful if it had been presented as a flashback sequence later on.
It seems that the Deuces cannot cross a line on the street
Unfortunately, that's not the worst thing about the movie, since it is also riddled with clichés, bad dialogue and an excessive use of slow-motion. The most ridiculous cliché of all is the fact that gang members cannot cross a line in the middle of the street, for the street divides the gangs' territories. Other clichés include a medieval-like arsenal room where the gangs keep all their baseball bats and chains (and they don't even have guns) and the classic "man winces when his girfriend cleans his wounds but not when he takes blows to his face" scene (which might be more of a pet peeve of mine than a cliché).
Fairuza Balk is one of the very few positive aspects of this movie
However, the movie does have a few positive aspects. For one, the combination of music, costumes and set design sets the appropriate mood for the movie. The movie does look like 1950's New York, even if the costumes and music are the same we've seen and heard over and over again (there were many times when I felt like I was watching West Side Story).
But the most positive aspect of the movie for me was simply this: Fairuza Balk (American History X, Almost Famous, The Waterboy) is finally moving up the acting ladder. Balk is an actress with a great screen presence, but she has been relegated to insignificant support roles for years. In this movie, she gives one of the better performances of the cast, even though the role didn't give her much to play with.
Dorff and Renfro give less than stellar performances
Among the other members of the cast, Stephen Dorff (Blade, Backbeat, Cecil B. DeMented) does an okay performance as Leon Anthony, but nothing really exciting. Brad Renfro (Ghost World, Bully, The Client) is just unable to deliver anything credible as Bobby. His whole performance consists of reading bad dialogue with a bad accent.
On the bad guys side, Norman Reedus (The Boondock Saints, Blade II, Gossip) is just as bad as Renfro, but on top of that, I don't care as much since he plays a bad guy. My biggest dissapointment however was with Matt Dillon (Drugstore Cowboy, There's Something About Mary, Beautiful Girls). First, Dillon doesn't fit the part of a wiseguy. Dillon is great at one thing: playing low-life characters. What would Singles have been without Dillon as Cliff Poncier? But he doesn't seem able to play a mafioso.
Is Martin Scorsese trying to protect the image of his film The Gangs of New York?
When I was doing my research for this review, I noticed something weird about the credits. On BrooklynFilm's official site for the movie, Martin Scorsese is credited as of the executive producers, yet that information is not present either in MGM's official site for the movie, nor in the Internet Movie Database. My guess is that Scorsese did not want to have his name associated with this movie, especially since people might confuse it with his own long-awaited Gangs of New York project (which is finally coming out in December 2002). I can't say that I blame him.
So, when you head out for the movie theatre this weekend, I suggest you avoid Deuces Wild and rather opt for either Spider-Man or Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending, both of which sound more entertaining. Then again, you might want to see Deuces Wild, so that you'll enjoy more movies this summer!
Reviewed on April 23, 2002


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