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Deuces Wild Review

By Shawn McKenzie 05/01/2002

What do you get when you mix The Basketball Diaries with "The Sopranos?"  You get Deuces Wild.  Normally that might be a good thing, but in this case, it's a little exaggerated.

Director Scott Calvert's first movie since his ultra-controversial 1995 movie The Basketball Diaries is the story of a couple of street gangs in the 1950's in the middle of a street war.  Brothers Leon and Bobby (Stephen Dorff and Brad Renfro) of the Deuces gang are determined to keep drugs out of the neighborhood, mainly because their brother died of "the junk."  The Vipers, a rival gang led by Marco (Norman Reedus) wants to bring drugs into the neighborhood.  Bobby falls in love with a Viper's sister named Annie (Fairuza Balk.)  There are several fights and lots of violence...plus some really keen tunes!

The problem is the posing is just a little too much.  There is too much stereotypical Italian machismo going on here, especially in the beginning.  There is so much of it that it makes "The Sopranos" seem tame by comparison (though "Sopranos"  cast members Vincent Pastore, Drea de Matteo, and Louis Lombardi all have prominent roles here.)

I also thought the Romeo and Juliet sub-plotline felt like a stretch.  Brad Renfro and Fairuza Balk have absolutely no chemistry together (plus, and I know this is my problem, but I can't watch Balk in anything without thinking she is going to grow fangs and bite someone!)

The third thing I was not that crazy about was all the wasted talent.  I think Dorff is a talented actor, and he proves that once again in Deuces Wild (one of the only actors here that wasn't over-acting), but some actors, specifically Golden Globe-winning actor James Franco (why would he follow up his role in the great TV movie "James Dean" with this nothing role?) and Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated actor Frankie Muniz (Malcolm, this is not the way to break into movies!)  In this movie, they are given practically nothing to do (Even though Muniz's character does get more involved at the end.)

I did like the fight scenes.  They felt right with the time period.  I'm glad they didn't pull some Matrix or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon rip-off like so many movies today.  Pipes, switchblades, chains, and pure brutality.  The fight scenes worked.

Something else I like to do in my reviews is clear up what I consider misconceptions made by movie trailers.  Even though Matt Dillon has an important role in this movie, it isn't a very prominent one.  I think he has less than ten minutes of screen time here.  Hey, Dame Judi Dench didn't have much screen time in Shakespeare In Love, and she won an Oscar!

So, if you are feeling nostalgic for some good 50's street violence, go see this movie.  If you are tired of over-acting and posing, for God sakes, don't go see this! 

I certainly hope that I see Dorff, Franco, or Muniz in a decent lead role in the future; I also hope that Calvert will direct a movie in the future that won't seem so stereotypical in style.  We've seen them all do better work in the past.  Let's all chalk this one up to a mistake and look forward to the future!


Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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