Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Rat Pack

Source Material:

Director: Rob Cohen

Screenplay by: Kario Salem

Year: 1998

Cast Highlights:
Ray Liotta: Frank Sinatra
Joe Mantegna: Dean Martin
Don Cheadle: Sammy Davis Jr.
Angus Macfadyen: Peter Lawford
William Petersen: John F. Kennedy
Zeljko Ivanek: Bobby Kennedy
Bobby Slayton: Joey Bishop
Megan Dodds: May Britt
Dan O'Herlihy: Joe Kennedy
Robert Miranda: Momo Giancana
Barbara Niven: Marilyn Monroe
Michelle Grace: Judy Campbell
John Diehl: Joe DiMaggio
Alan Woolf: Mickey Cohen
Phyllis Lyons: Pat Kennedy Lawford

A workmanlike biopic, The Rat Pack covers the activities of Frank Sinatra and his pals between 1958 and 1962. It ranges widely, exploring the intersection of Sinatra's life in entertainment, his relationship to the mob, and work for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election. At the same time, it explores the attitudes and prejudices of its time, addressing the sexism, casual racism, alcoholism, and general irresponsibility that made Las Vegas in the early 1960's such a legendary place. Most impressively, The Rat Pack does a beautiful job of balancing these disparate elements, all while keeping the story moving at a smooth pace. Unfortunately, it sometimes lacks the grace and humor of its subject, and occasionally falls flat under the weight of its ambition.

Unfortunately, there's a hole in the center of this film. Ray Liotta neither looks, nor sounds, nor moves like Frank Sinatra. Unlike the cool, impassive, and charming Chairman of the Board, Liotta seems overenergized, twitchy, and obnoxious. Apart from this shortcoming, however, the performances are generally good, although most of the actors look nothing like their subjects. Don Cheadle more or less steals the show with his intense portrait of Sammy Davis, Jr., while Joe Mantegna seems to channel the humor and spirit (spirits?) of Dean Martin. Angus MacFadyen's Peter Lawford and Bobby Slayton's Joey Bishop are also spot-on perfect. These sterling performances, unfortunately, only highlight Ray Liotta's total failure to effectively portray Frank Sinatra. Similarly, Zeljko Ivanek's rendition of Bobby Kennedy and William Petersen's John F. Kennedy are absolutely terrible. One wonders, in fact, if either of these actors has so much as seen the men they are portraying.

Overall, this movie is a solid evocation of a time, a place, and a mood. It's worth watching, particularly for anyone who has ever wanted to know about this group and era.

Physical resemblance: 4
Historical Accuracy: 9
Acting: 7
Production Values: 8
Cinematography: 5
Directing: 8


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