Deuces Wild

A common theme in stories about rival gangs involves some sort of forbidden love between gang members. This stretches all the way back to Romeo and Juliet, nearly four hundred years ago. This is strong company for Deuces Wild, a similar story set on the streets of 1958 Brooklyn, and Deuces Wild does not stand up to the comparison, which, admittedly is lofty. Even when setting the standards a lot lower, Deuces Wild still fails to be a competent gang warfare movie. It relies too much on conventional plot gimmicks, giving it a familiar feel, rather than attempting something original. The fight centers on the Deuces and the Vipers, who are vying for control of a small neighborhood. For the past couple years, the Deuces, led by Leon (Stephen Dorff, Zoolander, Cecil B. Demented), have maintained control of their turf.

Although the Deuces are fine with running numbers, they draw the line at drugs and guns. Leon and his brother Bobby (Brad Renfro, Bully, Ghost World) lost another brother to drugs years ago. Their rivals the Vipers, led by Marco (Norman Reedus, Blade II, Gossip), want to move in. Marco is fresh out of jail, having served time for dealing drugs. Leon blames Marco for the death of his brother, and the animosity level between them is high. Fritzy (Matt Dillon, One Night at McCool's, There's Something About Mary), a smalltime gangster, is, in a way, a sort of boss to the Vipers and the Deuces. He wants them to maintain their uneasy truce over the neighborhood. In moves Annie (Fairuza Balk, Almost Famous, Red Letters), who is the cousin of one of the Vipers. Bobby promptly falls for her, stirring heated debate amongst gang members on both sides.

Annie is the only person who could care less about the Vipers or the Deuces. She just wants to live her life. All of the other characters are sketched similarly by writers Paul Kimatian (The Wharf Rat) and Christopher Gambale. Each character has one overriding trait that distinguishes him (or her) from everybody else. Marco is a psychopath. Leon is pragmatic. Bobby is headstrong. The other gang members (on both sides) disappear into an anonymous mass of guys with slicked-back hair. Leon is the most interesting person, but the story turns away from him. He is amazingly powerful, yet actually takes the time to think out his actions. If he can avoid confrontation, he will. He is a good gangster, if that makes any sense. Yes, the gang is important, but so are the kids in the neighborhood. It borders on the funny. However, if Leon maintained control, then there would be no point to this movie. Director Scott Kalvert (The Basketball Diaries) shifts the focus to Bobby, who is much more volatile. Reputation and image are important to him, so anything that he may interpret as disrespect incurs his wrath. He is the opposite of Leon, and would much rather fight than to do anything else.

Choreography on the fight sequences is so-so, and thankfully Kalvert avoids overusing fancy camera angles and cuts. Everything begins to blur into a jumble of fighting and arguing. Kalvert's style is to throw everything at the camera, add in lots of loud noise (loud shouting, loud music), and hope that it holds the attention of the people watching. Deuces Wild may have been a little more interesting if it was not so derivative. Everything that happens happened before in other better movies. When a double cross, death, or anything else happens, nobody is surprised. It's too bad for Dorff, since this he does a pretty decent job with the material. The love story between Bobby and Annie is underdeveloped, and since it serves as the crux of the plot, the rest of the plot fails to be convincing.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug content, and brief sexuality.

Back to Movies