Felled in 1951 by the Shot Heard Round the World, rocked hither and thither by World Series agony and ecstasy (damn Yankees!), and left for dead at decade’s end when California’s Midas finger beckoned their Dodgers westward, Brooklynites had it rough in the post-WW II years. So rough, posits Deuces Wild (MGM, in general release), that their orphan boys lashed out in that first Dodgerless summer of ’58 with every brand of violence at their disposal: physical (baby-faced toughs deprettify each other with rocks), emotional (emasculated toughs screech at deh muddahs), linguistic (swollen-tongued toughs assassinate consonants, torture vowels). Hulking homunculus Bobby (Brad Renfro—what happened?!) is the youth most at risk, his puffy face bunched in a cauliflower of constipated rage. Amid this desert of the dispossessed, big bro Leon (Stephen Dorff) tries to keep his ragtag gang in line against the suggestively monikered Marco Vendetti (Norman Reedus), who’s fresh from stir and itching to powder-dust the ‘hood. Controlled substances would seem to be exactly what these jumpy JDs need, but Leon thwarts Marco’s community-service efforts with fists and speeches—the movie’s anti-drug message glints as blindingly as the acres of theme-diner chrome. Director Scott Kalvert, apparently purging a morbid fixation on The Outsiders‘ rumble scene (Matt Dillon plays a supporting role), unleashes an endless chain reaction of cartilage-crunching, organ-pulping brawls. A flashback to a heroin casualty on a rain-soaked playground is a crucial visual aid, but any punch-drunk victim of Deuces Wild might prefer the needle to the damage done.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 7, 2002