Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Deuces Wild

Posted By on Wed, May 8, 2002 at 12:00 AM

The face cards of Deuces Wild are rebels with causes. Leon Anthony (Stephen Dorff, Cecil B. Demented) is the king of a club (well, gang) who call themselves the Deuces. They rule half of Sunset Park (a neighborhood of a Brooklyn lately abandoned by their baseball heroes the Dodgers), vowing to protect their streets — especially from their “scag” (heroin)-peddling rivals, the Vipers, led by Jimmy Pockets (Balthazar Getty, The Center of the World). Though Leon cleans the stained-glass windows of Father Aldo’s (Vincent Pastore, HBO’s “The Sopranos”) church, contrary to popular belief, he’s not quite a saint. A trauma held close to his chest is the cause of his anti-drug vigilantism — and his vendetta against the aptly named Marco Vendetti (Norman Reedus, Blade 2).

Scag was the ace up Marco’s sleeve. He supplied the Vipers’ fangs with narcotic venom until he dealt a “hot shot,” a lethal dose of heroin, to Leon’s strung-out baby brother, Allie Boy (Blake Bashoff) and ended up with three years in the hole.

“The streets of Sunset Park ran red with blood when Marco returned from prison,” Leon’s voice narrates over the thunder and rain of the opening flashback. He becomes Mother Mary in a biker jacket, carrying home Allie’s limp body like a junkie Jesus down from the cross of his jones. With Elvis in the army, the Dodgers in Los Angeles and Allie in the ground, the Deuces feel the world’s anted up their innocence while they’re holding a losing hand.

Then there’s Leon’s guileless younger brother, Bobby (Brad Renfro, Ghost World), and Jimmy Pockets’ little sister, Annie “The Ice Cube” (Fairuza Balk, The Craft), the femme fatale next door. They’re the heart of a West Side Story love and a heist subplot.

But hearts aren’t trump here. Deuces Wild deals out a failed, ironic tragedy of revenge from a well-shuffled deck of melodramatic Hollywood clichés. Director Scott Kalvert (The Basketball Diaries) fills some scenes with enough faked rain, fog and moonlight to make a gothic horror flick and shoots other scenes — from rumbles to poolside flirtations — with often gratuitous and now hackneyed Hong Kong action effects.

Deuces Wild’s not worth anteing up the ticket price.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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