I’m not sure The Godfather was a good thing. Because it was such a success, filmmakers seem to have gotten the impression that any movie involving Italian gangs is automatically a high quality affair. That mistaken impression is the only thing which could possibly explain a film like Deuces Wild.
Set in 1950s New York, the film follows the lives of a gang of youths called ‘The Deuces.’ Lead by the charismatic young Leon (Stephen Dorff), ‘The Deuces’ are sworn to protect their block and their turf. Driven by revenge over the death of their youngest sibling, Leon and his brother Bobby struggle to preserve their little piece of Brooklyn against drug dealers and local toughs.
Deuces Wild is little more than a straight line from beginning to end. Flat and uninspired, it merely begins at point A, travels through a series of gang-film clichés, and ends at point B. In between is some fairly decent acting, which is utterly wasted on a series of painfully bland and lifeless one-liners uttered by characters who despite their gangster upbringing.
Like any good gang movie, there’s the appropriate number of requisite clashes between rivals. But even this bit of gangland, knife-fight action fails to drum up any excitement in this dead fish of a film. The gang clashes are filmed, whether by intent or incompetence, in an incomprehensible mishmash of action in which the good guys are indistinguishable from the bad. We never know who is winning, nor are we even sure who is fighting. It’s just a bunch of leather jackets rolling around on what looks like the set from Thriller, complete with rainless thunderstorms and eerie 1980s lighting. If only a few zombies had leaped out of the park’s cold, hard ground, then maybe we’d have a movie.
Instead, what Deuces Wild delivers is a bunch of empty teen gang stereotypes stolen from better films and thrown into a failed attempt at ’50s New York nostalgia. The only thing more hollow than the film’s characters is its score, which, while practically nonexistent, seems almost inevitable amidst the Hollywood backlot that serves as our heroes’ home. There is nothing at all to distinguish Deuces Wild from any of the other dozen or so gang films that have been belched out in recent decades, except perhaps for the fact that it is unquestionably bad.
Wild at heart.