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Movie Review

It's the year the Dodgers left Brooklyn. And all is not well in the city. Italian gangsters rule the neighborhoods, adhering to a strict code of honor, loyalty and the invisible lines that divide their turf. Look the wrong direction or wink at the wrong girl and you're as likely to get killed as yelled at. Leon is the leader of the Deuces. Jimmy fronts the Vipers (or at least he did while Marco did his time in jail). Now Marco's out and he's playing ball with the Mob. He wants to deal junk (heroin); Leon, still reeling from his brother's deadly overdose, says, "Over my dead body." Bloodshed is inevitable.

positive elements: It would be nice to say that it's a positive thing that the guys watch each other's backs and that they take care of their own. But in a world where fists, feet, switchblades and bullets are the only way anybody settles anything, there's not much left to praise. Still, the violence is so grim that it's impossible to walk away from it with a grin. The only conclusion available is that gangs are destructive and vile. Only four women are given more than passing screen time here. And they serve as a barometer reflecting the affects of the violence around them. Two are mothers. Two are girlfriends. All are devastated by their ringside view of the carnage. One mother has gone insane. The other turned to booze. One girlfriend is brutally beaten by her boyfriend's rivals. The other, driven nearly to the point of hysteria and insanity herself, desperately pleads with her man to take her far away, forever. Less significant is the Deuces' commitment to keeping drug trade off their block. Of course they kill to do it.

spiritual content: A priest invests time and energy into reaching out to Leon and tries to teach him how to make peace. Leon himself—at least in the beginning—pleads with his gang to hang back and be cool. A gangster smirks that "Jesus don't listen to no snitches."

sexual content: Leon and his girl, Betsy, are shown making out (heavily) on a couple of occasions. Body movements imply sex, but both are wearing clothes (Betsy is seen in her bra). Bobby and his girl, Annie, get hot and heavy in a swimming pool. Both men and women are seen in their underwear. Annie teases Bobby by pretending to strip in front of her window.

violent content: It's a movie about gang warfare in Brooklyn. The violence is intense and bloody. Slo-mo sequences during the film's climax accentuate the horror of multiple stabbings, shootings and bludgeonings, all shown in explicit detail. And there's not just one big rumble at the end. Fights are nearly constant throughout. Blood, sweat and death mingle with numbing frequency. Baseball bats. Chains. Brass knuckles. Steel-toed boots. Guns. Drugs. There are lots of way to kill a man and Deuces Wild explores a bunch. Twice, Bobby dumps cinder blocks off the edge of a building to take out guys in a car below. Leon crashes his car through the front of the Viper's hangout hoping to crush at least a few of his foes. Marco threatens Bobby by cutting the side of his throat with a knife. A father slaps around his young son (the Deuces object and give him a beating for it). Betsy is brutalized and then sent back to Leon as an example of what is waiting for him. An innocent deaf man is attacked for walking on the wrong side of the street. A gangster is thrown out of a moving car.

crude or profane language: Close to 100 f-words (quite a few of them used in their most explicit contexts) make for a painful auditory experience. Add to that handfuls of s-words, abuses of the Lord's name, and other profanities and vulgarities.

drug and alcohol content: Marco, Jimmy and their boys deal drugs. Jimmy is seen snorting cocaine. Another man shoots heroin. There are also multiple images of Leon and Bobby's kid brother dying from a drug overdose. Cigarette smoking becomes a veritable art form onscreen and alcohol also makes quite a nuisance of itself.

other negative elements: Racial slurs are traded a couple of times.

conclusion:"Deuces Wild is the worst thing to have happened to Brooklyn since the Ice Age severed it from the mainland," writes New York Daily News movie critic Jack Matthews. "It not only promotes every stereotype and invokes every cliché of Brooklyn lore, it combines them all into an insulting composite, fuses that to the chrome-and-fins of the pointless Fifties, and then—weirdly—pretends it's Shakespeare." Since Deuces Wild was directed by the man who helmed the highly controversial Basketball Diaries, it's no big revelation to say this movie is violent. And while one must concede that the ultimate message here is anti-drug and anti-violence, the carnage leading up to that conclusion is so fluid, so macho, so compelling that it's hard to imagine it won't get under the skin of at least a few on-the-edge modern gangster wannabes.

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Stephen Dorff as Leon Anthony; Brad Renfro as Bobby Anthony; Fairuza Balk as Annie; Norman Reedus as Marco Vendetti; Frankie Muniz as Scooch; Balthazar Getty as Jimmy Pockets; Max Perlich as Freddie; Drea de Matteo as Betsy; Johnny Knoxville as Vinne Fish


Scott Kalvert ( )





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Steven Isaac

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