Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Dukes: Grade F


The Dukes (2007)

Chazz Palminteri, Robert Davi, Peter Bogdanovich; Co-writer and director Robert Davi.

It is generally not worth my time (or yours) for me to review movies that don’t meet minimum standards of watchability, but this one is interesting because it clearly demonstrates how bad directing (assisted by bad writing) can ruin a movie that looks promising. Chazz Palminteri is one of my favorite B-list actors. He is an archetypal Italian mobster, has a great sense of comic timing (e.g., Analyze This), and some pretty good dramatic chops too (e.g., Yonkers Joe). Bogdanovich, acclaimed director and actor in his own right, is enjoyable too. Lay on a plot of three old former doo-wop singers pulling off a safe-cracking gold heist, and what could go wrong? Writing and directing, that’s what.

The writing wants to be comedic but is so lame it could not appeal to anyone over 5 years old. Have the three men dress up as tomatoes to sing a commercial ditty. Har, har, what could be more funny? The safe was open but they accidentally locked it? Omigod, hilarious! The dialog is so stilted it doesn’t sound remotely like real people, and the principals are reduced to hammy overacting because there is nothing else for them to do.

The directing is so clunky that the actors sometimes actually stand there like mannequins waiting for their cue. The cameras alternate among straight head shots according to who is talking. It has the stink of television, only not as good. Plotting is jerky and hard to follow. Secondary characters are confusing and irrelevant. And tragically, the doo-wop music is terrible. So even though the film is unwatchable for entertainment value, it could be instructive to students of film who are interested to see how badly wrong filmmaking can go.

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