The Dukes: An Old Tune, Professionally Sung

Even if you don't know the name, you'll recognize Robert Davi's slightly corroded handsomeness and shiny, bottomless eyes. The ubiquitous Astoria, N.Y.–born character actor directs himself as the frontman of a group of golden-oldie doo-woppers, men who've seen better paychecks, shopping for work in the L.A. nostalgia circuit. Peter Bogdanovich is the group's manager, his full-body sag betraying a yellowed Rolodex. On a shoestring, the Dukes attempt to handle ex-wives, diabetes, and dentists' bills, while collectively trying to ignore a smarting sense of middle-aged disappointment. Davi, who's done more journeyman jobs than most, opines: "Hollywood is limbo—you wait there and then your soul goes to Santa Monica." Getting some lithe sequence shots out of his camera crew, this first-time director shows a knack for bending scenes off in the middle and twisting them into pleasingly unexpected shapes. The Dukes complains a bit under its heavy freight of low-payoff exposition, and brings business back for unnecessary encores (sideman Chazz Palminteri's chubby-chasing worked in whenever). How, though, to resent a work of such deliberate inconsequence? Even the boys' desperate foray into amateur breaking-and-entering isn't written toward a big heist climax, but merely another soft tapering-off, a stoic "That's life" shrug, better luck tomorrow, moving on.

 
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