Deuces Wild

on May 03, 2002 by Wade Major
   Operating under the belief that there haven't been enough movies about feuding Italian-American street gangs in 1950s Brooklyn, “Basketball Diaries” director Scott Kalvert returns with “Deuces Wild,” a stuffed turkey of weary clichés and regurgitated tough-guy subplots that rip off just about everything from “West Side Story” to Francis Coppola's archetypal S.E. Hinton adaptations of “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish.” As if the connections weren't obvious enough, the film even has Martin Scorsese on board as executive producer and boasts a reconfigured “Rumble Fish” score from composer Stuart Copeland.

   In a splashy flashback intro, Deuces Leon (Stephen Dorff) and Bobby (Brad Renfro) mourn the heroin death of their brother on a rain-soaked street, laying blame squarely at the feet of the evil drug-dealing Viper chief Marco (Norman Reedus). Flash forward years later and Marco is set to be released from prison, threatening the fragile truce that has allowed the two gangs to share their common street like a kind of DMZ. Before any kind of hell breaks loose, though, it will have to go through Fritzy Zenetti (“Rumble Fish's” Matt Dillon), the handsome but ruthless young gangster who oversees both their territories. Toss in the obligatory Catholic priest, an assortment of ineffectual parents and a “West Side Story”-style Deuce/Viper romance between Bobby and Annie “The Ice Cube” Polito (Fairuza Balk) and the stage is set for a movie that looks, sounds and feels exactly like a hundred other movies.

   Like “The Basketball Diaries,” “Deuces Wild” is a visually flamboyant exercise that seems more concerned with generating facile conflict than credible characters. It's almost as though Kalvert is afraid that too much substance might detract from the film's self-consciously glitzy style. And that makes it difficult to care about any of the characters, least of all those for whom the audience is meant to care the most. They're like runway models showing off Kalvert's latest collection, a mix of retro-chic and contemporary urban style.

   Coming soon to a theatre or a department store near you. Starring Stephen Dorff, Matt Dillon, Brad Renfro, Balthazar Gettty, Fairuza Balk, Norman Reedus, Frankie Muniz and Deborah Harry. Directed by Scott Kalvert. Written by Paul Kimatian and Christopher Gambale. Produced by Willi Baer, Michael Cerenzie and Fred Caruso. An MGM release. Action/Drama. Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug content and brief sexuality. Running time: 97 min

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