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Deuces Wild (May 2/02)

Though it begins promisingly enough, Deuces Wild eventually winds up a mess of clichés and overblown camerawork. Set in 1950s New York, the film revolves around a small neighbourhood controlled by a gang known as the Deuces. Heading the Deuces is Leon (Stephen Dorff), a charismatic young man whose brother died of an overdose three years prior. Along with his surviving sibling (Brad Renfro) and the rest of the Deuces, Leon pledges to keep his block free of drugs. But when an old nemesis (Norman Reedus) returns to the old neighbourhood after a stint in jail, violence isn’t too far behind.

Deuces Wild marks Scott Kalvert’s first film since 1995’s The Basketball Diaries, and it’s clear he hasn’t been honing his craft in the interim. Though his introduction of the neighbourhood and the various miscreants living within is effective, the man simply does not know how to competently direct an action sequence. Kalvert throws in various cinematic tricks, ranging from choppy slow-motion to annoying close-ups, when all he really needed to do was point and shoot.

That said, the first half of Deuces Wild is surprisingly entertaining, mostly due to the superb performances. While Renfro is good (though he appears to be making a career out of playing likeable idiots), this is really Dorff’s show. His portrayal of Leon is an exercise in volatility, appearing sweet and kind one minute and deadly combative the next. Deuces Wild may be worth a look for reminiscing baby-boomers, but really, there’s a reason it’s been sitting on the shelf for over a year.

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