Aces it isn't: 'Deuces Wild' absolutely criminal
By Marshall Fine
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
(Rated R profanity, graphic violence, sexuality) One Star (Poor)
A ridiculous drama about the golden age of juvenile delinquents, when gangs in black leather jackets tried to protect their Brooklyn neighborhoods from the influx of drugs. This one's been sitting on a shelf somewhere for two years awaiting release; they should have left it there. Starring Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk. Directed by Scott Kalvert. United Artists, 96 minutes.
You get the feeling that "Deuces Wild" has been leaving a bad taste in someone's mouth for a while, which might explain why it's been sitting around awaiting release for two years.
You can tell its vintage just by looking at actor Frankie Muniz, who appears ready to start shaving on recent episodes of "Malcolm in the Middle." He looks about a foot shorter in this film, which was finished in 2000; obviously he hit a growth spurt while the studio waited for exactly the right moment to unleash this film on the unsuspecting public.
Set in the Sunset Park neighborhood of 1958 Brooklyn (but obviously shot on a back lot somewhere), "Deuces Wild" is about the golden age of teen gangs, back in the days when switchblades were exotic and handguns weren't as easy to procure as cigarettes. By contemporary standards, the gang at the center of this film, the Deuces, seems like a church youth group, despite their D.A. haircuts, leather jackets and vulgar vocabulary.
But there's trouble a-brewin' in Brooklyn. Leon (Stephen Dorff), leader of the Deuces, formed the gang to protect his neighborhood from the influx of heroin, after his younger brother died of an overdose. But his rival, Marco (Norman Reedus), is getting out of jail and wants Leon's blood. Marco, leader of the rival Vipers, is the dealer who sold the dope to Leon's brother; he believes Leon ratted him out to the cops and wants payback. Leon, however, is warned by the neighborhood mob boss, Fritzy (Matt Dillon), not to start trouble when Marco comes home, even as Fritzy encourages Marco to get Leon out of the way of a drug trade that's just itching to start.
But no one's going to disrespect the Deuces on their own turf. It's only a matter of time before they head to a rumble under the highway oops, wrong movie I mean, at the boat yard.
Directed by Scott Kalvert, "Deuces Wild" is a teen-gang drama for people too young to remember "The Wild One" and "Rebel Without a Cause" and too lazy to rent them. This apparently included most of the people involved in making this film, who act as though they invented the idea of the juvenile delinquent.
The actors alternately spritz testosterone and get all gooey about their moms, to show their sensitivity. There's even a "Romeo and Juliet" subplot involving Leon's hothead younger brother Bobby (Brad Renfro), who falls for the sister (Fairuza Balk) of one of the top Vipers.
Kalvert tries to stylize the film with slow-motion moments, which only heighten the silliness, when they aren't draining the fight scenes of dramatic energy. He also underscores every tense moment with thunder and lightning, which crash and flash on cue.
There was really no need to release "Deuces Wild" to the general public. It could have been shown to film-school classes as a primer on cinematic cliches and empty-headedness.
Rated R (profanity, graphic violence, sexuality.