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DEUCES WILD

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Stephen Dorff, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk, Frankie Muniz, Drea DeMatteo, Vincent Pastore, Balthazar Getty, Matt Dillon, Norman Reedus, James Franco
Director: Scott Kalvert
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: August 6, 2002

"I need all the guys. Round ‘em all up.”

"What’s going on?”

"It's goin' down tonight.

Film ***

What a nice throwback to the days of old Deuces Wild is. In my younger years, I was much enthralled by the stories of S.E. Hinton such as Rumble Fish and The Outsiders, as well as the equally enjoyable film versions, and since it's been nearly twenty years since there has been a street gang movie of that nature, a movie like is certainly welcome in my opinion. It's just too bad nobody had proper faith in the movie, which was actually shot over two years ago and delayed for release numerous times, only to be released the same weekend as Spider-Man, which was definite proof of how poorly the film would perform. Nonetheless, the film itself is a power punch of a movie, with all the raw energy and edge of a perfectly put together film about street gangs, and with a killer ensemble cast and a large level of style to boot.

The film takes places in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood during the summer of '58, the time when the city's much loved Dodgers baseball team had relocated to L.A., and a summer that would have a big impact on Bobby (Brad Renfro), whose resides with a gang known as the Deuces, which was started up by Bobby's older brother, Leon (Stephen Dorff, in a role terrifically suited for him). The Deuces were an all around clean-cut crew determined to rid the streets of crime, drugs, and all around filth. Leon's primary reason for starting such a gang was the death of his brother, who died because of drugs given to him by members of The Vipers, the rival gang in Brooklyn.

The two gangs are in the midst of a much-needed truce, thanks in part to the efforts of the loyal Father Aldo (Vincent Pastore), and that of local mob boss Fritzi (Matt Dillon). However, trouble finds its way into the neighborhood upon the return of the sadistic Marco (Norman Reedus) who has gotten out of prison after a three-year stint for selling the drugs that killed Leon and Bobby's brother. Needless to say, Marco is looking for some payback. To make matters worse, Bobby falls in love at first sight with Annie (Fairuza Balk), whose brother happens to be a Viper.

The movie is very well directed with strong stylization by Scott Kalvert, whose last film was the daringly provocative The Basketball Diaries which helped to boost the careers of then unknown actors Leonardo Dicaprio and Mark Wahlberg, and he brings to Deuces Wild a similar raw edge, though this movie is set in a completely different era.

The centerline story is as simple as can be; two rival gangs battling for control of the neighborhood, but in some cases, you can use a formula and still make it enjoyable, and Deuces Wild is such an example a genre many are familiar with, but haven’t had the chance to experience in a while. It marks such a grand opportunity.

Video ****

The look of Deuces Wild is a key element in the film’s enjoyment, and MGM’s video transfer enhances this element to a bigger level. It’s quite simply one of the studio’s most superb looking disc in quite sometime. Picture quality is consistently sharp and alive throughout the entire presentation. Colors are a highpoint too, as they appear as vibrant as any array I’ve ever seen on any release. This is quite simply one of the best looking discs of the year.

Audio ***1/2

A good enough 5.1 mix is at service here by the folks at MGM, and it does a most serviceable of delivering a roaring presence of sound in two areas; the darkly staged fight scenes and the sounds of classic 50s tunes, as well as composer Stewart Copeland’s guitar stringed score. Dialogue is delivered in a clear fashion as well.  

Features **

The disc includes a trailer for the film, a running commentary by director Scott Kalvert and editor Michael R. Miller, and a behind the scenes photo gallery.

Summary:

It passed by the public in its theatrical run, but if you are in search of a good throwback movie, look no further than Deuces Wild, a larger than life gang picture that carries with it strong style and good acting. Truly, a hugely underrated movie.

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