More nostalgic than realistic, Deuces Wild paints an unimaginative portrait of macho bullshit. The story feels overly familiar: two rival gangs battle for turf in their six-block neighborhood in 1950s Brooklyn. It’s a place where the word “fuck” is de riguer and everyone is a caricature from some other film or television show about pin-up gangsters. The film opens dramatically with Leon (Stephen Dorff) carrying the corpse of his brother, a sinister drug dealer Marco keeping watch over the proceedings and conveniently cueing the film’s central conflict. One gets the impression that these old-school roughnecks fight just to pass the time and prove their masculinity. The film flashes forward three years, complete with Good Fellas-style narration. Bobby (Brad Renfro), Leon’s hothead younger brother, is introduced while kicking a deaf boy’s ass. As played by Renfro, Leon isn’t so much a mean son-of-a-bitch as he is one stupid Guido. Enter Annie, The “Ice Cube” of the neighborhood, whose legs are apparently locked at the knees. The otherwise predictable Deuces Wild gets interesting with the kind of goth-fire zingers (“I crawled out between my mother’s legs”) only Frairuza Balk can spit out. Technically speaking, Deuces Wild is a marvel to look at: the appropriately grainy, hot-red tint courtesy of the great John A. Alonzo; the killer costumes and production design; and pretty boys whose mugs are never glamorized. Director Scott Kalvert’s otherwise restrained style becomes obtrusive via flashy edits and distracting slow motion, which takes away from the gritty realism the film seems to be vying for. The cast from The Sopranos also distracts though Deborah Harry wonderfully raises the film’s oddball factor as a mother addicted to Christmas carols. Too bad the performances alone won’t make you care about what happens in this machismo concrete jungle, better visited in films like The Last Exit to Brooklyn.
- 96 min
- Scott Kalvert
- Christopher Gambale, Paul Kimatian
- Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk, Norman Reedus, Frankie Muniz, Vincent Pastore, James Franco, Johnny Knoxville, Deborah Harry
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: