WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Brad Renfro is Leon, the leader of the Deuces, a Brooklyn street gang circa 1959. Determined to keep junk off their street after Leon's brother dies of an overdose, the deuces square off in a series of vicious rumbles with a rival gang, all under the concerned watch of the local mob boss Fritzy (Matt Dillon).
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Despite the use of some very well-trodden clichés, this film has its moments and even though they're fewer and more far between than what I would have liked, they do come together. This being Brooklyn in the late fifties, the director made sure to have a stickball game, a kid playing yo-yo, an argument about the Dodgers, a street fiesta and a bunch of very caricature toughs going all around. I went through the first part of the film half-expecting Archie and Jughead to show up. To make it worse, the clichés were compounded with Italian families being thrown into the mix, allowing even more stereotypes about Italian thugs to be trotted about. But enough on that, let's get to the better parts.
Stephen Dorff was pretty damn good as Leon and his rival counterpart Marco, was played with evil success by Norman Reedus. It's also very clear from the get-go that this is the sort of film where no one is really the good guy. Other highlights were Fairuza Balk, as the Annie, the girl next door and the very cute Drea DeMatteo as Betsy, Leon's girl. Annie has the little drawback though of being the sister of a Viper, the rival gang and of being in love with Leon's own brother (not the dead one, another one). That brother is played by Brad Renfro, who has to be the worst actor not only on Earth, but in the entire known universe and at least one part of the unknown universe. The man's delivery is so weird that he's either a refugee from Quebec television or the best actor since Lawrence Olivier...fooling all of us right now. Another drawback was that none of the other gang members were developed enough for us to give a shit, but with a running time of just over a buck and a half, I guess that's understandable.
Now if you're judging this film by anything you've seen in the trailers and previews, know now that this is not "The Wonder Years". This movie is a lot darker than I expected and I was surprised at the level of violence and bloodshed and death. Some pretty neat angles are used in many shots and although it gets a bit too dark at times, the fighting is excellent and very, very painful looking. One poor sucker actually gets his arm held out by a bunch of guys while another one bashes it with a stick. All other elements of cool fifties rumbles are also there, including the pipes, chains, boards with nails and switchblades. I guess that was before every other punkass carried a piece up his pants, when men fought with honor. All in all, it took me a little while to get into his one but when I did, I really enjoyed it, so take this film for better and for worse, and you'll enjoy your evening.
Not much here and nothing to really write home about. You begin with a commentary by director Scott Kalvert and editor Michael Miller, in which they go through the motions of a DVD commentary. They toss in a couple of good one-liners once in a while though, such as the one about hiring Mini-Me to play one of the gangsters. Other than that, you get the theatrical trailer which is actually pretty inviting (I saw it in the theater before watching the crappy CHANGING LANES and did get very curious) and an on-set photo gallery, which features many shots of the very lovely Drea DeMatteo. One odd thing though, I thought I had stumbled on to an Easter Egg when I kept going down after I had selected all the picks on the features page. I ended up on a small Deuces logo but all it did was changes the screen to look as if the TV glass had been broken. If there was more to it, I sure as hell couldn't figure it out...
Overall, this is an OK little film but not a very indispensable DVD. I was pleasantly surprised though, especially hearing all the bad word-of-mouth and knowing the movie didn't fare so well at the theaters. I did enjoy it and would recommend it for a rental to most anyone.