Gang Boys (1994)- * * *
Directed by: Wings Hauser
Starring: Wings Hauser, Linda Blair, Dave Buzzotta, Mitch Hara, and Cole Hauser
Joe Joiner (Wings) was an L.A. cop, but after a certain unfortunate incident, he left the force, fled to Mexico, and now lives on a boat. As a full-time alcoholic, he's constantly drowning his sorrows. When his fifteen-year-old son Marjoe (Buzzotta) is assaulted by a gang of skinheads, his mother Maggie (Blair) reaches out to Joe. After seeing with his own eyes the menace that this gang of skinheads is causing in the Hollywood area, Joe begs Maggie and Marjoe to help him kick the booze once and for all. On his road to recovery, not only does he attempt to repair the fractured relationships in his life, he also has a simple yet ingenious plan to deal with the local skinhead population - permanently. But will leader of the GANG BOYS, Bentz (Cole Hauser) prove to be the ultimate demon - out of the many that he has - for Joe Joiner?
Sandwiched in between Romper Stomper (1992) and American History X (1998), Gang Boys proves to be an undiscovered gem in the Wings canon. At least it features way more actual skinheads than Skinheads: The Second Coming of Hate (1989), which had surprisingly few. This must have been a passion project for Wings, as he directed, co-wrote, and co-produced the film, and even sang a song on the soundtrack. His wife Cali, his son Cole, and his daughter Bright also act in the film, so it really was a family affair. It's interesting subject matter for them to cover.
You'd think, after watching the opening credits and the first few minutes of the film, that this is pretty low-rent stuff, especially with all the "S's" in the credits made to look like Nazi SS S's, with those sharp edges. When such credits as "Associate Producer" are meant to look menacing, it seems a little odd. But if you stick with the movie, you'll see that it's filled with genuinely good acting and drama. The whole cast really brings their A game - you'd expect that from Wings, Cole, and Linda Blair, but even side characters such as Bruce the Vendor (Hara) really stand out.
Gang Boys isn't, strictly speaking, an action movie. It's more of a family drama, and when Wings goes into his "recover and revenge" mode, you'll be right there with him, cheering him on. The role reversal with his son, who now is caring for his father, is both touching and funny by turns.
A movie like this, with not a lot of money behind it but with a lot of heart, rises and falls on its actors, and Wings must have known this, because they elevate Gang Boys to a level it wouldn't be otherwise.
While both Wings and Linda Blair sing songs on the soundtrack ("Walkin' On the Right Side of the Devil" and "Since You've Been Gone", respectively), unfortunately, a lot of the music and dialogue is hampered by some bad audio on the VHS transfer. It was released on a small label, so it didn't reach many video stores in America. They were obviously a low-budget operation, and that goes for the quality of their tapes, as well as their quantity. That's a shame, because Gang Boys deserves better.
I know it seems like a long shot at this moment, but hopefully someday there will be a Blu-ray release of Gang Boys. That way, the public will see a cleaned-up version of a movie that should be more well-known and more often talked about. We recommend it.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty