Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Dukes of Crime

By David Luhrssen
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Doo wop was a baroque flight of vocal fancy, a music born in the 1950s alongside rock’n’roll on the street corners of New York. For a few years in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, doo wop as a regular visitor on the pop charts until those crystal pure harmonies were swept into memory by the British Invasion. Most of the doo wop groups that knew success had it measured out to them in small doses. They were one or two hit wonders.

The Dukes (out on DVD and Blu-ray) is a comedy about one of those groups that survived into the ‘00s, 45 years after their day on the top. Even the revival circuit has dried up. They are relics. The boys who once epitomized a certain kind of cool have been reduced to performing a gutted rendition of their hit for a soup commercial directed by a pretentious young wannabe. Hard up on all ends for money, they turn to crime, a pursuit for which they have little natural aptitude.

Written and directed by actor Robert Davi (Die Hard) in his filmmaking debut, The Dukes is an amusing, dialogue-driven movie about the choices we might face when our dignity is in jeopardy. At its best moments, The Dukes is lightly dusted with pathos for lost moments in time. The cast is superb, headed by Chazz Palminteri as the group’s leader, Emmy winner Bruce Weitz as the safe cracker that tutors them in crime and the great Peter Bogdanovich as the group’s increasingly hapless manager.

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