Even if you don’t think you know Robert Davi, you know Robert Davi. He’s had memorable roles in a ton of classic movies, from Special Agent Johnson (no, the other one) in Die Hard to the Opera-loving mafioso in The Goonies. For decades now he’s been trying to get his screenplay The Dukes made into a film and direct it himself, and finally, he’s done it.
The Dukes are a washed-up old Doo-wop band with a couple of hits under their belt, but nothing much going for them nowadays. They’re still struggling to keep going with their musical career but it’s hard in this age of mp3s and pre-made pop groups.
Robert Davi stars as Danny DePasquale, the heart of the band. He’s got a kid that he sees whenever he can (he’s recently divorced) but he is struggling to help pay bills by working in a restaurant. His best friend and bandmate George (the always-incredible Chazz Palminteri) works alongside him. Together with Armond (Frank D’Amico) the trio tries to make ends meet by whoring out their music whenever they can. One day Danny overhears a dentist talking about pounds of gold he has stored in a safe, and while the prospect of getting some quick and easy cash is tempting (especially to the impulsive George) they soon push it aside as ridiculous. These guys aren’t thieves, after all… they’ve never done anything remotely like this.
Meanwhile their manager Lou (Pete Bogdanovich) is still trying to get them work whenever he can but it’s hard for a doo-wop act nowadays. After being humiliated once more by having to do commercials for a tomato soup brand (in tomato suits with little tomato hats), the group decides that they have nothing to lose, and start setting up the heist.
The film’s not really all about the heist, though. It’s a buddy film, and the heist is just one of the many obstacles they run across in the film. The heist itself, which is being promoted as the big dramatic moment in
the film, is over before you know it, and you’re off to other problems
in their lives. The main issue with the film is that there is no dramatic tension to speak of. Every single thing that happens to the group is quickly remedied, and there’s never any worry or fear that they’re not going to end up ok. It really stalls the film and leads to almost eye-rolling moments that are seemingly played just to get you to smile.
The other irksome thing is that for a Doo-wop group, you never really get the sense that singing is their real passion. The only doo-wop we hear is recordings of other artists, and the group doesn’t even seem to even like singing. If this was truly their passion, their talent in life, why do we have to wait till the end to really see them trying?
Still, this is the kind of movie your parents will love. It’s sappy and lighthearted and hits all the right, happy notes. The music is great and the performances really are impassioned. It’s just a shame that the film’s all over the place.