By Stina Chyn | August 23, 2005

Word of the week: Wild


** 1/2

Director: Scott Kalvert

Writers: Paul Kimatian and Christopher Gambale

Producers: Willi Bar, Fred C. Caruso, Michael Cerenzie, and Paul Kimatian

Starring: Stephen Dorff, Balthazar Getty, Brad Renfro, Fairuza Balk, Norman Reedus, James Franco, Matt Dillon, Max Perlich, and Frankie Muniz


Wild: Frankie Muniz?

Stephen Dorff was one of my first celebrity crushes, and though I have seen a number of his films—“SFW” (Jefery Levy, 1994) possibly a subjective best—Scott Kalvert’s “Deuces Wild” (2002) was strongly considered but never technically viewed. Since “wild” and “water” tied for the first week, I chose to go with the former. “Deuces Wild” is a pseudo-homage to “West Side Story” (minus the musical numbers) and “The Outsiders” (without everything that was good about it).

Kalvert’s film begins with Leon (Stephen Dorff) carrying the body of his dead brother Allie in his arms. A poorly executed camera sequence establishes Jimmy Packet (Balthazar Getty—remember him?) and Marco Vendetti (Norman Reedus) as the arseholes who were responsible for Allie’s death by drug overdose. Bobby (Brad Renfro) is Leon’s other brother. Flash forward three years; Bobby is the narrator and provides plot and character information. Since Allie’s death, Leon has started a gang called the Deuces to protect his side of the street from the Vipers, Jimmy and Marco’s pack. Fritzy (Matt Dillon) is the guy at the top of the gang food chain. Looking much too old to relive or rewrite his character from “The Outsiders,” Dillon isn’t in enough of the film to appear as if he is that important to the story—even though he contributes significantly to narrative conflicts.

Fairuza Balk’s anachronistic presence and Frankie Muniz are also signs of impending viewer dissatisfaction. The film is set in the late 50s to early 60s, but Balk can’t go back beyond the 70s (a la “Almost Famous”). In addition to her visually discrepant relationship to the film’s setting, she leaves me completely unconvinced that she would like Brad Renfro’s character. Malcom-in-the-Middle’s Scooch is also misplaced as he contributes unnerving enthusiasm and wide-eyed facial expressions. I would be willing to put this complaint aside and focus on the presentation of the film, but there is nothing special about the cinematography or the editing. Other than the numerous superimposed images of slow motion segments followed by a series of rapid cutting in the final fight scene, Kalvert includes no indication that he was responsible for the cinematic brilliance of his 1995 film “Basketball Diaries.” Nothing else in Kalvert’s filmography is very impressive for that matter. Before “Deuces Wild” he made “Basketball Diaries” and a Marky Mark workout video. Hmmmm.

Hollywood has produced a handful of films about or involving gangs, so viewers have an understanding of how intense gang rivalry can be and that an-eye-for-an-eye is basically the law. Storylines are frequently modified descendants of “Romeo and Juliet” and we know them by heart. Thus, originality isn’t the problem with “Deuces Wild.” Films whose integrity and meaning rely on the characters should depict characters that gain the viewer’s sympathy. Unfortunately, in the end, despite the end, I couldn’t care less about who dies and who lives. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise with such a flat plot that I would find myself WANTING there to be musical numbers.

“Shoo bop shoo bop,

I’m gonna get you,

shoo bop shoo bop.

Don’t you even think of hiding”

(step, kick, turn, hands up).

“When you hear that rattling chain, bee bee bom bom,

When you hear the deafening rain, sha nana na na,

You better run home to mama, ya ya ya, better run home to papa”

(legs out, and 1 & 2 & jump and slide)

“Don’t show that ugly face of yours here again,

wah-oo wah,

`Cause I’m not a niiiiice maaaannnnn.”

Every week, Stina Chyn puts her viewing habits in your hands. Readers vote on five random words posted at Back Talk every Tuesday. The winning word dictates what she will have to watch and review the following week as that word must appear in the title of the movie. Choose wisely!

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