The Four Deuces (1975)
“A gangster movie in a mould of its own!”
Director: William H. Bushnell
Cast: Jack Palance, Carol Lynley, Warren Berlinger
Synopsis: Gangland boss Vic Morono presides over a mixed pack of cards with the trumps being the ‘The Four Deuces.’
Jack Palance (They Came to Rob Las Vegas, Monte Walsh) is one of those big-name Hollywood actors who actually made a lot more duds than films of quality in his career, and The Four Deuces, a lame attempt to cash in on the popularity of comedy gangster movies started by The Sting definitely qualifies as one of the former. He plays Vic Morono, a prohibition-era hood embroiled in a war with rival gangster Chico Hamilton (Warren Berlinger). They run rival clubs, and begin a war of attrition when one steals the other’s cargo of illicit booze.
Palance wasn’t a particularly great actor, and director William H. Bushnell clearly lacked the confidence to prevent him from repeatedly going over the top, but he’s still the best thing about The Four Deuces. The film’s tone is wildly uneven; sometimes it plays like a straight gangster movie, even though its scene breaks are linked by comic book captions, while at other times it opts for broad comedy (a woefully ill-advised shoot-out played in fast-motion to high-tempo ragtime music is particularly regrettable). The dialogue is risible: a drinking game in which audience members must imbibe whenever Morono says “You know what I mean?” would result in all participants in a drunken stupor long before the end credits rolled, and the screenplay is padded out with a number of forgettable songs. All this is played out mostly at night (because it’s cheaper) or on small, cheap sets. Somehow, the movie does manage to work up a measure of audience sympathy for the beleaguered Morono, but otherwise The Four Deuces has nothing at all going for it.
(Reviewed 1st November 2014)