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MGM Studios DVD presents
Deuces Wild (2002)

"It was the summer of '58. The year the Dodgers left Brooklyn. The summer Dion and the Belmonts were blasting out of every car radio, and the summer that I first fell in love. It was the summer Marco Vendetti came home from prison and the streets of Sunset Park ran red with blood."
- Bobby (Brad Renfro)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: August 05, 2002

Stars: Brad Renfro, Stephen Dorff, Fairuza Balk
Other Stars: Vincent Pastore, Frankie Muniz, Balthazar Getty, Matt Dillon, Norman Reedus
Director: Scott Kalvert

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, some drug content, and brief sexuality
Run Time: 01h:36m:48s
Release Date: August 06, 2002
UPC: 027616865410
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-B+B- C-

DVD Review

Deuces Wild sat on the shelf for two years after it was completed, which is never a good sign. It's about a war between two street gangs in the 1950s, obviously influenced by West Side Story, Rebel Without a Cause, and The Outsiders. As long as you take "influenced by" to mean "copied from," because you'd be hard pressed to find an original plot point anywhere, from the tired Romeo and Juliet romance to the "Eh, I'm Eye-talian" accents.

It's the story of Bobby (Renfro), who tells us (through ponderous voiceover), the story of the summer of his 20th year. He's a member of a street gang called the Deuces, led by his brother Leon (Dorff). The Deuces aren't bad guys—they protect their neighborhood and keep drugs off the streets. Tension rises and tempers flare when ham-fistedly Marco Vendetti (Reedus), leader of rival gang the Vipers, is released from prison and eager to settle a score with Leon. Meanwhile, Bobby finds comfort in the arms of Annie (Balk, who seems to have gotten her famously crooked teeth capped), sister of one of the Vipers.

The plot doesn't so much unfold as lurch from one formulaic scene to another. The Deuces sit around smoking, looking cool, and lamenting the Dodgers move to L.A. Marco swears to get revenge on the stoolie that put him in prison. Leon forbids Bobby to ever see Annie again. Guys are "jumped" and "rumbles" ensue, followed by some sensitive, method crying scenes from the macho-but-tortured heroes. Dialogue is ludicrous throughout, like a Saturday Night Live parody of '50s teen films ("It was the summer of '58... the summer Dion and the Belmonts were blasting out of every car radio, and the summer that I first fell in love," and "Deuces forever!" are my personal favorites). The cast is full of familiar faces (including Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz as "the kid with a stupid nickname," Scooch), all of whom seem committed to their roles, but the cornball dialogue doesn't do them any favors.

Scott Kalvert's direction is overdone to the point of camp, and the seriousness with which he handles the material actually propels the film into guilty pleasure territory. With elaborate fight scenes filmed entirely in slow motion, frequent "dramatic" dissolves, and tight framing that fills the screen with actors bloodied and bruised faces, Kalvert infuses the picture with the kind of pretentious flair the overwrought script demands. He's not incompetent—he does a good job hiding the fact that the film was shot entirely on a studio back lot—but there's only so much you can do with a bad script. Lucky for him, then, that all the elements came together to create an entertaining-in-all-the-wrong-ways B-movie. Deuces forever!

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Deuces Wild is offered in both 2.35:1 and 1.33:1 transfers. Considering the compression necessary to fit both transfers on one side of a DVD-9, image quality is actually pretty impressive. The picture is nice and sharp, with good fine detail and natural color balance. Black level is fairly good, though some darker scenes show a bit of visible film grain, particularly in indoor scenes.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio quality is a bit mixed. The front soundstage offers nice separation between the channels and quite a few directional effects, with dialogue anchored in the center and always clear. However, the rears remain mostly silent throughout, only offering a bit of support for the score and perhaps augmentation for a sound effect or two. For a movie with so many big fight scenes, a more immersive track would've been nice.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Scott Kalvert and editor Michael Miller
Packaging: Scanavo
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Montage
Extras Review: Director Scott Kalvert and editor Michael Miller contribute a fairly standard commentary track to this release. Kalvert is quick to point out that, due to budgetary concerns, the entire film was shot on a studio back lot, and he goes on to emphasize that he and the crew were working on short time and a tight budget. Methinks he doth protest too much. Miller talks about editing together the elaborate fight scenes, and both contribute several of your typical production stories. Not a bad track, and certainly worth a listen for the film's fans.

The Photo Montage selection offers about five minutes worth of behind-the-scenes snapshots set to the score. The theatrical trailer is included as well.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Crude, clunky, and clichéd, Deuces Wild is one of those bad movies that somehow still manages to be fairly entertaining. It never comes close to equaling gangland dramas like West Side Story or The Outsiders, but will probably still please genre fans with its own pulp charms.


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