Audiences have been watching character actor Robert Davi for decades in films like “Die Hard” and “Raw Deal.” Who knew a filmmaker with a weakness for hard-luck cases resided under that rugged exterior?
Davi’s first film, “The Dukes,” is currently working the film festival circuit and getting warm notices along the way. It’s a heart tugger of the first order, a flawed but embraceable tale of a has-been music group trying for one last score. And it’s not the musical kind.
Davi, who directed, co-wrote “The Dukes,” stars as Danny, a doo-wop crooner of The Dukes whose finances have him singing the blues. Bandmates George (Chazz Palminteri) and Armand (the late Frank D’Amico) are just as broke. So they stumble across a plan to revive their bank accounts. They’ll rob a dentist office and swipe its pot of gold – the precious metal meant for patients’ fillings.
Naturally, nothing goes precisely as planned.
“The Dukes” isn’t big-scale entertainment. At times, its pleasures are as modest as its tiny budget. Still, it’s sweet and soulful in the places that count, and it gets by on plenty of moxie.
Palminteri is a hoot as George, Danny’s chubby-chasing pal, and Peter Bogdonavich looks appropriately shattered as the Dukes’ manager.
Davi, in turn, whips up a convivial atmosphere that’s old fashioned and current considering today’s economic crunch. The neophyte hyphenate falls prey to a meandering final act, though, as well as a late character addition that feels like a screenwriting exercise slipped into the final draft.
I’d carp about one very obvious product placement, but such transgressions are far more forgivable in an inide flick which needs all the support it can get.
“The Dukes” is like the doo-wop songs which populate the film’s soundtrack. It’s outdated yet perfectly welcome in today’s film market.
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