Deuces Wild

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Deuces Wild

The gang drama Deuces Wild marks music-video veteran Scott Kalvert's return to the big screen following 1995's notorious and regrettable Basketball Diaries, which applied a frenetic MTV sensibility to Jim Carroll's cult memoir. An even more gratuitously stylized exercise in flashiness for its own sake, Deuces Wild exacerbates Diaries' shortcomings while subscribing to a view of masculinity that borders on prehistoric. Set in a '50s Brooklyn so permeated with period detail that the film quickly becomes the cinematic equivalent of a retro theme restaurant, Deuces Wild stars Stephen Dorff as the good-hearted leader of a tough-talking, Brylcreem-abusing gang dedicated to protecting its turf from drug dealers and other undesirables. Brad Renfro co-stars as Dorff's hotheaded younger brother, who defies the code of the streets by pursuing the tough-talking sister (Fairuza Balk) of a hated rival. Dorff and Renfro find themselves concerned with larger issues, however, once the pusher (a reptilian Norman Reedus) behind their junkie brother's drug-related death is released from prison and vows revenge on Dorff for snitching to the cops. Matt Dillon, Johnny Knoxville, Max Perlich, and Frankie Muniz round out Deuces' overqualified cast, but after a while, the film's goons morph into the same tattooed, wifebeater-sporting caricature. Kalvert seems to view his characters primarily as vessels for '50s iconography, to be used, manipulated, and discarded at random. He's found kindred spirits in screenwriters Christopher Gambale and Paul Kimatian, who seem to have constructed their worldview entirely from fuzzy memories of GoodFellas, The Outsiders, and Andrew "Dice" Clay routines. A repellent orgy of gratuitous violence and hackneyed melodrama, Deuces Wild marks a grim nadir for everyone involved, including late cinematographer John A. Alonzo (Chinatown, Harold & Maude), who deserved a much better swan song.

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