EmptyOpened: Friday, Nov. 14 (CAVU Pictures)
Veteran character actor Robert Davi is normally seen playing dastardly villains or tough cops, so it's not surprising that he would want to show off his sensitive side in his directorial debut, "The Dukes," which he also co-wrote.
A bizarre tale of a washed-up doo-wop vocal group planning a heist in order to finance a comeback, this mildly engaging comedy drama has enough quirky charms to compensate for its rough spots.
The Dukes have fallen on hard times, with the occasional gig arranged by their long-suffering manager (Peter Bogdanovich) hardly enough to pay their bills. Indeed, two of its members, cousins Danny (Davi) and George (Chazz Palminteri), have been reduced to working in the kitchen of their elderly aunt's (Miriam Margolyes) Italian restaurant.
When George comes up with the idea of buying a nightclub to showcase the group, the resulting need for the necessary cash prompts an ill-conceived plot to rob a local dentist of the gold that he's extracted from his patients' mouths.
Needless to say, the scheme, also involving a former burglar (Bruce Weitz) who is tempted out of retirement, goes comically awry, but rest assured that by the film's end the Dukes have another opportunity to sing a selection of doo-wop classics.
There are enough bits of offbeat humor -- involving such things as George's taste for plus-sized women and the group's humiliatingly dressing up as large tomatoes for a cheesy television commercial -- to overcome the tired plot line and awkward attempts at sentimentality. The actors, who clearly seem to be having a good time, display a winning camaraderie, with Palminteri particularly enjoyable as the womanizing George.
Cast: Robert Davi, Chazz Palminteri, Peter Bogdanovich, Miriam Margolyes, Frank D'Amico, Elya Basdking, Dominic Scott Key, Melora Hardin, Bruce Weitz.
Director: Robert Davi.
Screenwriters: Robert Davi, James Andronica.
Executive producers: Frank A. Visco, John Paul DeJoria, Herbert F. Boeckmann II, James Hawse, Bob Byers Jr., R. Rex Parris, Walter Wang.
Producers: Robert Davi, Don Dunn, James Cypherd, Chazz Palminteri.
Director of photography: Michael Goi
Production designer: Derek Hughes
Music: Nic. tenBroek
Costume designer: Shawnelle Cherry
Editor: James Cypherd
Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.